Ethiopia rights commission says no 'massive' poll abuses

Ethiopia rights commission says no 'massive' abuses during poll
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Ethiopia's recent election did not experience widespread abuses, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission was not authorised to monitor the vote [Getty]

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Saturday that while there was some violence recorded during the country's elections, it had not observed "massive, widespread and systematic human rights abuses".

Votes are still being counted from Monday's elections, which went ahead without polling in the war-torn northern Tigray region and other restive parts of Africa's second-most populous nation.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a government-affiliated but independent body, did not receive authorisation to observe the polls, but still deployed around 100 staff across the country to monitor abuses.

"In our overall assessment in the places we visited we didn't see major massive, widespread and systematic human rights abuses," EHRC head Daniel Bekele told a press conference on Saturday. 

But the commission did point out that the vote was held despite boycotts from some political parties and the jailing of several opposition leaders. 

"The commission underscores the election are happening when there are overlapping problems," Bekele said, citing the conflict in Tigray, which drags on seven months after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops in to oust its ruling party. 

"It was good to see the election went largely peacefully in many parts of the country, except incidents including human rights abuses in various places."

The EHRC said it had observed several killings in the days leading up the vote in the populous Oromia region. In a report released on Saturday, it listed six people killed or attacked in Oromia.

The commission also said that opposition members were beaten in Amhara and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR).

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There were "several hundred arrests" on polling day in Oromia, Amhara, the SNNPR and Benishangul-Gumuz regions as well as the capital Addis Ababa, including of opposition members and supporters.

Earlier in the week the National Election Board of Ethiopia deemed the vote mostly peaceful but reported "high levels of intimidation" of opposition party members in some regions.

Some 38 million people were registered to vote but many did not cast a ballot, with elections postponed or cancelled in a fifth of national constituencies because of war, insecurity and logistical problems.

Abiy was facing voters for the first time since coming to power in 2018, and his ruling party is expected to secure a comfortable majority.