The United Nations rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has expressed her dismay at the recent killings of civilians in the village of Tole, West Wellega in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, and asked authorities to allow an independent investigation.
She termed the killings “senseless”, which added to the forced displacement of the local population in the attack on Tole village.
Her statement on Thursday referred to the June 17 attack in which a group of armed individuals descended on the village and began shooting randomly, killing hundreds and forcing thousands of others to flee. Those affected were mostly women and children.
Although located inside the Oromia region, Tole has a predominant Amhara population, signalling an understated ethnic dimension to the violence.
“Hundreds of people belonging to the Amhara ethnic group were killed by rebels, with bodies still lying on the streets after hours of violence,” survivors told AFP.
Moreover, Bachelet said armed forces abducted civilians during the attack and called for their release.
“I call on the authorities to take all necessary and lawful measures to ensure those abducted regain their freedom,” she said.
She also urged the Ethiopian authorities to conduct a quick, impartial, and thorough investigation to ensure justice.
“I call on the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that investigations are promptly launched into the attack and to ensure that victims and their families have a right to truth, justice, and reparations, including by holding those responsible to account.”
Addis Ababa has accused the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) of the deadly raid on Tole village and promised swift measures against the “ethnically-motivated” attacks.
However, the rebel group’s spokesperson, Odda Tarbii, denied the allegations, saying instead that the Ethiopian government had “orchestrated” the attacks to “frame” OLA.
“The Ethiopian authorities cannot be trusted to hold an impartial investigation ... What is needed are independent investigations by a third party,” Tarbii said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was tasked by parliament to “investigate the serious human rights violations committed against innocent people” in Oromia and Gambella region.