Ethiopian government has denied involvement in “mock killings” against supporters of the rebel groups in its Somali region and the execution of more than 150 people to instill fear in villagers suspected of backing rebels.
Ethiopia’s Information Ministry said Friday a report compiled by Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleging its military’s involvement in human rights violations in the Ogaden region was a “fabricated and a slandering” campaign to satisfy a geo-political agenda.
The HRW report accuses the Ethiopian military of a campaign of terror against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONFL) and its sympathisers, often carrying out what the agency termed as an “economic war” against the mainly nomadic groups.
According to the report, unveiled here Thursday and titled “Collective Punishment, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in the Ogaden Area of Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State,” the government is responsible for an “economic blockade against its people”.
Chinese and Ethiopians killed
The rights watchdog documented what it considered as dramatic unchecked violence against civilians since June 2007, when the Ethiopian army launched a counter-in surgency campaign against rebels who attacked a Chinese-run oil installation.
The April 2007 attack by the rebel ONLF on the Chinese-run oil installation in Obole killed more than 70 Chinese and Ethiopian civilians.
“The Human Rights Watch report provides the first in-depth look at the patterns of abuse in a conflict that remains virtually unknown because of severe restrictions imposed by the Ethiopian government,” the organisation said in its report.
The Ethiopian Information Ministry said the government would not tolerate any party striving to use Ethiopia to satisfy its geo-political agenda since the sole objective of the government was to safeguard the rights and interests of the Ethiopian people.
“Human Rights Watch, the self-styled international human rights activist, launched a groundless report on 12 June in Nairobi, Kenya, as if human rights violations and war crimes occurred in Ogaden region of the Somali state,” the ministry said in its statement.
Ethiopian authorities have also accused the Human Rights Watch of failing to see kits point of view over the alleged human rights violations in the Somali region.
The rights organisation alleged the military had conducted several executions to instill fear in the suspected sympathisers of the ONLF and was continually harassing its citizens by blocking relief supplies and trade routes.
Conspiracy of silence by London and Brussels
“The Ethiopian army’s answer to the rebels has been to viciously attack civilians in the Ogaden,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“These widespread and systematic atrocities amount to crimes against humanity. Yet Ethiopia’s major donors, Washington, London and Brussels, seem to be maintaining a conspiracy of silence around the crimes,” she told journalists.
It said its researchers interviewed over 100 victims and eyewitnesses as well as traders, business leaders, and regional government officials located in neighboring Kenya, the semi-autonomous Somaliland in northern Somalia and in Ethiopia.
The research, largely carried out between September and December 2007, was further supplemented with satellite images that confirmed the burning of some villages.
“It is clear that such campaigning of defamation is the work of anti-peace forces that hate to see Ethiopia in the right track of development and democracy and the success of the peoples in Ethiopia in all sectors,” the government said.
“The government has already made public that the anti-peace agenda of ONLF, which massacred Chinese oil experts and innocent Ethiopians is successfully exposed and foiled jointly by the defense forces and the Somali people,” the government said in its rejoinder.