Protesters have been labelled 'terrorists' by Ethiopian authorities in an attempt to violently suppress protests against potential land seizures, which have already resulted in 40 deaths, said Amnesty International.
A statement issued by state intelligence services today claims that the Oromia protesters were planning to “destabilize the country” and that some of them have a “direct link with a group that has been collaborating with other proven terrorist parties”.
“The suggestion that these Oromo - protesting against a real threat to their livelihoods - are aligned to terrorists will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression for rights activists,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Instead of condemning the unlawful killings by the security forces, which have seen the deaths of more than 40 people in the last three weeks, this statement in effect authorizes excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”
The latest round of protests, now in their third week, are against the government's master plan to integrate parts of Oromia into the capital Addis Ababa.
Similar protests against the master plan in April 2014 resulted in deaths, injuries and mass arrest of the Oromo protesters.
Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009, permits the government to use unrestrained force against suspected terrorists, including pre-trial detention of up to four months.
People that have been subject to pre-trial detention under the anti-terrorism law have reported widespread use of torture and ill treatment. All claims of torture and ill treatment should be promptly and independently investigated by the authorities.
“The government should desist from using draconian anti-terrorism measures to quell protests and instead protect its citizen's right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.