Pardons for more than 2 000 in Ethiopia


Authorities in Ethiopia’s restive Oromiya province pardoned over 2,000 prisoners jailed for involvement in unrest that gripped the country in 2015-2016, officials said.

The move is part of government efforts to calm unrest lingering since mass protests in the region over accusations of land grabbing.

Hundreds died in the violence, with protests broadening into demonstrations against political restrictions and perceived human rights abuses.

On Friday, Oromiya regional President Lema Megersa announced 2,345 inmates were pardoned, of who 1,568 were convicted and sentenced.

The move followed the release of Merera Gudina, an opposition leader arrested on his return from Brussels where he addressed members of the European Parliament on violence in Oromiya. He was freed alongside 114 other inmates.

The government in Addis Ababa has long been accused by rights groups of using security concerns as an excuse to stifle dissent and media freedom. It denies the charges.

Last week the United Nations urged the Horn of Africa country to review the status of a “large number of people” still behind bars.

UN human rights spokesman Liz Throssell said the Addis Ababa government should review anti-terror legislation and laws “to ensure they are neither interpreted nor implemented too broadly, resulting in people being arbitrarily or wrongfully detained”.

Laws placing “undue restrictions” on non-governmental organisations and restricting the media should also be revised, Throssell told a news conference in Geneva.