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Ogaden: Ethiopian Government Forces: Massacre, Displace and Starve Out the Civilian Population with Impunity
A Report Prepared by the Ogaden Human Right Committee (OHRC)
August 8th, 2007 - OHRC/AR/07
The international community should take note that the human rights violations presented in detail in this report and the previous reports are flagrant violations of rights and freedoms guaranteed by International Human Rights Treaties, acceded to or ratified by the current Ethiopian Government.
As has been repeatedly documented by the Ogaden Human Rights Committee and international human rights organizations, the state of human rights in the Ogaden has gone from bad to worse in the recent past. The abysmal track record of the EPRDF/TPLF regime has been recently aggravated by natural calamities-mostly man made- and senseless wars, which had primarily been caused by the ill-devised policies of the current Ethiopian government.
The Ethiopian government’s policy in the Ogaden is based on; deliberate economic strangulation, political marginalization and use of brutal military force to suppress all legitimate demands from the population including the right to self-determination.
As a part of the Ethiopian government’s policy of starving out the civilian population in the Ogaden to submission, its army has imposed an economic blockade on many towns and villages in the region. This blockade has caused an enormous human suffering. The most affected areas by the military siege are: the regions of Dhagaxbuur, Fiiq, Qabridaharre, Wardheer, Godey, Afdheer and some parts of Jigjiga, where many villages were depopulated and razed to the ground by the government troops.
The depopulation campaign is in full swing despite the concern and apprehension expressed by the international humanitarian organizations, which operate in some parts of the region.
The Ethiopian government’s scorched earth policy in the Ogaden was in place since early 1992 when the ONLF has called for referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden. But both the New York Times’ article of June 18th and Human Rights Watch’s statement on the human rights violation in the Ogaden, on June 04th 2007, put the spotlight on the slow genocide, which is going on in the Ogaden without the knowledge of the international community.
On July 24th 2007, the Ethiopian government accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of collaborating with the enemy and spreading baseless accusations against the regional government as well as giving money, material and information to the Ogaden National Liberation Front and others allied with Eritrea. The Organization was given seven day to leave the Ogaden after twelve years of remarkable work.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee believes the Ethiopian accusations against the ICRC are far form the truth and are aimed at getting rid of a potential and credible eyewitness in order to carry out its mass killings, mass starvation and scorched earth policy in the region without the knowledge of the international community.
On June 09th 2007, at a press conference, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “We have launched a political and military operation to try to contain the activities of the ONLF. As for the military plans, over the past few days they have started to be implemented.”
The Prime Minister’s assertion, that a political and military operation to try to contain the activities of the ONLF has been launched over the past few days, was misleading and disingenuous, because the Ogaden was a virtually closed military zone for the last fifteen years, where bloody battles were being fought between Ethiopian armed forces and combatants of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. And the Ogaden Human Rights Committee repeatedly indicated this in all its reports since 1996.
All successive Ethiopian governments including the current EPRDF/TPLF government considered the Ogaden as a rebellious region, which must be pacified by military means. The region has been turned into a military garrison with no infrastructure whatsoever.
The current much publicized Ethiopian onslaught comes as retaliation to the ONLF’s attack on a Chinese run oil exploration field, in Cobolle, on 24th April 2007.
Since April 30th 2007, more than 200 villages, hamlets and nomad pastoralist settlements were destroyed by Ethiopian infantry and military helicopter gunships, and thousands of livestock namely; She-camels, camels, goats, sheep and cattle were decimated in the military campaign as well.
Many animals starved to death and many nomad families were left destitute after Ethiopian government forces rounded up their animals, which are the primary source of livelihood for nomad pastoralists. Confiscated livestock were put in concentration camps and were left for the elements without water and fodder. The pastoralists who resented or showed any resistance were shot dead in cold blood. The incident that took place in Labiga village, near Dhagaxbuur town, on June 18th 2007, where members of Ethiopian armed forces killed 21 pastoralists and wounded more than 50 others who resisted Ethiopian troop’s attempt to impound their animals is a case in point.
According to the assessment of the elders the livelihoods of the region’s inhabitants, the Ogden was much better off, both economically and security-wise, in 1991, when the EPRDF/TPLF came to power, than it is today.
While drought, war, corruption and maladministration are primary causes of human sufferings, the Ethiopian government’s poor human rights record has exacerbated the situation in the region.
Since, OHRC’s last report, Ogaden: Mass Killings in the Ogaden: Daily Atrocities against Civilians by the Ethiopian Armed Forces, February 16th, 2006, the human rights situation in the region has not improved, but rather it has deteriorated dramatically.
This Report is based on first hand information, victims’ accounts and strenuous field research carried out by Ogaden Human Rights Committee’s researchers throughout the Ogaden.
The report documents some human rights violations in the Ogaden, which took place between February 2006 and July 2007.
Many victims and their families gave their testimonies on condition that their real names should not be used, while others who are not in danger accepted their real names to be used. Their graphic accounts of misery fear and brutalities are included in this report.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is alarmed at the massive rise in extrajudicial killings, rape, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture cases as well as unlawful private property confiscation and demolition of houses.
Extrajudicial killings: In the Ogaden Ethiopian security and armed forces have been given a carte blanche and blanket impunity to kill whoever they want under the pretext of suspected support and sympathy for the ONLF. The Ogaden Human Rights Committee has documented so far; 2395 extrajudicial killings.
Rape: The Ethiopian government uses rape as a weapon and its soldiers are under orders to abduct, torture, rape, and kill any woman who is related ONLF member or suspected of sympathizing with the ONLF. The strategy of abduct, torture, rape and kill (ATRK) is applicable also to the members of Ogaden Women’s Democratic Association (OWDA). Number of HIV/AIDS virus infected women and young girls after being raped by members of the Ethiopian armed forces is increasing as well as the number of pregnant women as a result of these rapes. The number of documented rape victims is 1945.
Forced disappearances: A large number of people have disappeared after being abducted or detained by members of Ethiopian armed and security forces, while others disappeared from notorious military detention camps, or were transferred to secret detention centers in Harar or Addis Ababa. The fate and whereabouts of those people remain unknown to their relatives. In many cases they are presumed dead. The OHRC has documented 3091 cases of forced disappearances.
Arbitrary detentions and torture: Besides political imprisonments Ethiopian armed and security forces periodically round up as many people as possible for ransom and when the extortion money is paid, the detainees are released. In the Ogaden, there is neither arrest nor interrogation without torture. Ethiopian armed and security forces systematically torture suspected ONLF members to extract information or confessions. A number of people were tortured to death. The OHRC’s researchers have examined a large number of torture survivors; some of them were disabled, while others bore scars of torture on their bodies.
In the Ogaden Ethiopian armed and security forces live on extortion, looting and unlawfully confiscating private properties owned by innocent civilians. They sack also and then demolition private residences. The Ogaden Human Rights Committee has documented many cases of unlawful private property confiscation as well as demolition of large number of houses.
To the best of the Ogaden Human Rights Committee’s knowledge, The Ethiopian government has done nothing to stop or prevent human rights violations in the Ogaden. On the contrary, it encourages, decorates and promotes violators to higher ranks. Since the current Ethiopian government came to power in 1991, no one has been charged for these horrendous crimes, which have been committed in the Ogaden by the Ethiopian armed and security forces.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee has also documented and is alarmed at some extrajudicial killings against suspected collaborators with Ethiopian armed and security forces by members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front as well as intimidating pro-government employees in the Ogaden.
Somalis from the Ogaden region are also persecuted in Somalia (Somaliland, Puntland and TFG areas) where they are constantly imprisoned, tortured and then handed over to the Ethiopian government in exchange for ammunition, materials or simply to prove loyalty, cooperation and friendship to Ethiopia.
This modest report begins with executive summary, appeals and recommendations to the international community as well as individuals for urgent action to end and prevent human rights violations in the Ogaden, and concludes with annexes of classified lists of victims of human rights abuses.
Source: American Chronicle