Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

Ethiopia: Open Impartial Inquiry Into Candidate's Killing

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 5 March 2010
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia: Open Impartial Inquiry Into Candidate's Killing, 5 March 2010, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

(New York) - The Ethiopian government should urgently initiate an independent investigation into the murder of an opposition candidate for parliament and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch said today.

Aregawi Gebreyohannes, the victim, was a candidate for the Arena-Tigray opposition party for the May 23, 2010, elections. He was stabbed to death by five men at his home in Shire, in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, on the evening of March 1, press reports and witnesses said.

"This attack demands an urgent, credible, and independent investigation given Ethiopia's highly charged pre-election environment," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Getting to the truth of this incident will help build confidence in the electoral process."

Opposition officials contend that the attack was politically motivated and followed months of intimidation and harassment of Aregawi and other opposition candidates. The government told international journalists that the killing was a personal dispute, not political, and that Aregawi had tried to break up a fight in his restaurant. The government also said that one of the men who attacked Aregawi has been taken into custody. Credible sources told Human Rights Watch that the others have been released.

The Arena-Tigray party is a member of the largest opposition coalition, known as the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD, or Medrek). The leader of Arena-Tigray, Gebru Asrat, told Voice of America radio that the killing of Aregawi and the beating of another Arena-Tigray candidate, Ayelew Beyene, by armed men on March 1 were part of a campaign of intimidation by the ruling party.


The May 23 elections will be the first parliamentary elections in Ethiopia since 2005, when post-election protests resulted in bloodshed. Up to 200 people were killed by government security forces responding to street protests in June and November 2005. Tens of thousands of people were arrested in the course of the political crisis over disputed election results, including dozens of opposition leaders, journalists, and several civil society activists.

Since 2005, Ethiopia's human rights situation has worsened, marked by a harsh intolerance for independent civil society activity, criticism of government actions, or opposition political activity. Government critics continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, and even torture. Repressive new legislation passed in 2009 makes most forms of independent human rights activity impossible and provides an overbroad definition of terrorism that could be applied to acts of peaceful protest or to media reporting on security-related topics.

Opposition parties contend that government officials regularly harass, intimidate, and assault opposition supporters to repress political dissent. The government routinely denies the allegations. A prominent opposition leader, Birtukan Midekssa, is serving a life sentence after the government revoked a pardon it issued for alleged acts of treason connected to post-election protests in 2005. UN experts said in 2009 that her detention was arbitrary.

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