Back to Front Page

Amnesty International’s Half-Baked Report: Encouraging but Too Late Too Little

Amnesty International’s Half-Baked Report: Encouraging but Too Late Too Little

(Brief Commentary)


30 May 2020


The depth and spread of human rights abuses in Ethiopia became too much too wide to cover up by the international community and their human rights watchdogs who attempted to hide it in support of Mr. Ahmed Ali’s regime, the culprit of the abuses. The 76 pager new report by the Amnesty International tries to address the prevalence of human rights abuses committed by the current Ethiopian regime of Mr. Ahmed Ali. The human rights watchdog reported the atrocities committed by the “security forces” in 2019 covering only selected territorial locations focusing in Orimiya, Amhara and few places of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ regional states. There cannot be an acceptable justification with regard to what and why it took so long for Amnesty International and other human rights watchdogs for that matter to understand such a blunt and colossal systematic abuses of rights in Mr. Ali’s ‘new’ Ethiopia.

Videos From Around The World

The report is encouraging for the very reason that it exposed some of the human rights abuses committed by the regime including but not limited to extrajudicial killing, summary executions, arbitrary arrest of individuals, mass detention, torture, forced evictions, destruction of private property, rape and other forms of ill treatment. The modus of operandi and the level of cruelty only revealed the behaviour of the Addis Ababa government in general but that of Mr. Ahmed Ali and his advisory circles in particular.

However, the report predominantly accused the security forces and local authorities as if the prime minister and his responsible cabinet ministers or key advisors did not order or at least are not aware of the ill-fated campaigns of the security forces and the atrocities made against civilians. The report mentioned about the establishment of the so called ‘command posts’ that organized and coordinated the campaigns against the armed rebel groups or control inter-communal conflicts but simply prefers to accuse the security forces as if they operate in their own will. It is very clear to many who know the strict command chain of the Ethiopian Federal security forces (the army and the federal police) that every instruction comes from the centre of the government, which is the premiership quarter. The report is a half-baked factually and intentionally. It intends to expose the atrocities because it reaches a level where it cannot be hidden or ignored, but also the report cannot hide Amnesty International’s desire to exonerate Mr. Ahmed Ali from the heinous atrocities. In this report, Amnesty International reconfirmed its long-time impartiality and vested ideological interest.

Who established the ‘command posts’ including those illegal ones or are not known to the parliament? To whom are these posts reporting? Who is legally mandated to deploy Federal security forces to regional states? Who approved the plans of these unfortunate command posts and the campaign in general? The answer is obvious, Prime Minister Ahmed Ali supported by his advisors. Nothing of such heavy and costly operations are organized and executed without a clear decision and direction by the prime minister of the country.

The saddening fact is that members of the security forces themselves, except few who have vested political or ethnic interest or corrupt ones, are suffering from their actions against their people. The security forces are taking all the blames of the wrongs of politicians at every ranks - federal, regional and local levels. Politicians, including the prime minister or state presidents, provoke or trigger or cause conflicts. When thigs went beyond the politician’s control, the security forces take the harsh burden of containing the mistakes of the politicians. However, this does not mean that the security forces are not to be blamed, rather, it is obvious that members of the forces have committed horrendous crimes to serve the unpopular interests of politicians or the government to be specific. The security forces are mere tools of the government. Amnesty International should have said the spade is the spade rather than creating a dangerous excuse to Mr. Ahmed Ali and purely accusing the security forces.

To support my argument against Amnesty International, let me directly quote few statements from key figures of the watchdog and the report. Amnesty’s Director for East and Southern Africa stated[1] that “[the] Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. However, it is unacceptable that the security forces should be allowed to carry on committing human rights violations with impunity” [highlight added]. What is clear here, according to Amnesty International, is that the government is improving human rights but the security forces are carrying out abuses. This is ridiculous in any standard. Security forces of Ethiopia are not a bunch of militia forces without chain of command. The army and the federal police are much known for discipline of observing orders strictly except in minor accidents or minor local operations unlike those organized and directed by command posts.

In the same news posted in the official web site of Amnesty International, it is stated that “[with] elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law and remain impartial in undertaking their duties.” [Highlight added] Once again, Amnesty seems to assume that things now are under control but can escalate with election. This is very confusing and misleading statement to international observers, whereas, things have gone worse in terms of human rights abuses, though inter-communal conflicts have been eased.

Various civil society groups (not to mention political oppositions for obvious reason) of Oromia, Sidama, Qimant, Gedeo and other communities are providing sequence of statements supported by evidences about the continued horrendous human rights abuses in their communities. Here I would like also to pose a question why Amnesty ignored the despicable atrocities against the Sidama people. The second dangerous point in this statement is that Amnesty seems to trust and rely on the government to correct the security forces. As the saying goes the fish smells from the head, Amnesty should have charged the government and come up with a statement to the government to restrain from abuse of human rights against its citizens and should address the armed rebellion and conflicts through inclusive political process.

Amnesty International, suggested a recommendation[2] to the prime minister to “publicly order the security forces to immediately stop the [abuses] … [and] publish and elaborate … the mandate and rules of engagement of the security forces deployed” This is just a mere unfunny joke on the pain of the victims. Has any dictator a problem to give good orders to security forces publicly? Did Amnesty really believe that the Ethiopian Security Forces are short of published mandate and rules of engagement that observe international human rights standards? This very dwarf recommendation compared to the depth of the atrocities reported. The security forces have clear rules of engagement supported by solid training but the problem is the behaviour of the government to which the security forces reflect to or even take direct orders that emanate from its deep rooted undemocratic nature and recklessness to their citizens.

The report naively but deliberately recommended[3] Ministry of Defence (MoD) to demobilise the security forces to be executed by the Ministry of Defence to shift the blame once again to the security forces. The security forces are instructed by the government directly through the prime minister himself, as he is Commander-in-Chief of the Army. That means the authority to demobilize is not for the Ministry of Defence but for the prime minister. The MoD has no role other than advising or taking the orders of the Commander in Chief of the Army, Mr. Ahmed Ali. This recommendation looks carefully crafted to acquit the Mr. Ahmed Ali from these despicable atrocities that dashed the hope of millions of Ethiopians emerged in 2018. Another flaw of the report is that it did not seriously investigate the role of regional states’ authorities in commensurate to the degree of harmful direct role they played in both Oromia and Amhara regions. The report did not mention any recommendation to the regional state authorities who have a role to make or break human rights abuses under the control of their territories and who play significant role in the politics of the country. The report also despondently tried to link some of the atrocities to inter-communal conflicts rather than deliberately provoked by senior regional government authorities particularly that of the case of Qimant in Amhara region.

Ethiopians expect genuine reports from international and regional human rights watchdogs, not a half-baked politically and ideologically depleted manipulative reports. If these groups are to be trusted, they need to speak the truth and only the truth rather than playing politics that people knew well from their experiences. However, I do not want to totally downplay the efforts of the researchers, who I believe would have ‘non-sanitised’ alternative report that implicate the government to the heinous atrocities.



[1] Amnesty International (29 May 2020) Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia,

[2] Amnesty International (2020, page 46) Beyond Law Enforcement: Human Rights Violations by Ethiopian Security Forces in Amhara and Oromia,

[3] See footnote 2 above

Back to Front Page