House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Constituency Statements

Ethiopia: Oromo People

10:33 am

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand in the federal Parliament of Australia today to draw the attention of my colleagues and the government to the serious human rights concerns raised by members of the Australian Oromo community. The Oromo people make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, but the human and political rights of the Oromo people have been under attack. For the second time in two years, a state of emergency has been declared by the Ethiopian government. Media reports quote the government as stating that the state of emergency was necessary to stem a wave of antigovernment protests. The state of emergency imposes curfews and bans on protests, displays of political signs or messages and distributing political material.

According to Human Rights Watch, the first state of emergency, declared in 2016, brought 'mass arrests, mistreatment in detention and unreasonable limitations on freedom of assembly, expression and association'. Popular protests became widespread, but these Oromo protests were met with lethal force by the government. Over 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands arrested as political prisoners.

The second state of emergency, declared on 18 February this year, has brought with it more violence. Killings of civilians by security forces have been reported across the Oromia region, including recently in Moyale, where 10 people were reported killed. There's been large-scale displacement, both internal and external, to neighbouring countries, from which many face forcible repatriation or refoulement into danger. And while the Ethiopian government states that it released 30,000 Oromo people arrested during the Oromo protests of 2016-17, reports indicate that tens of thousands more people are held as political prisoners. Oromo community members in Melbourne have informed me of reports that over two years 70,000 people have been arrested on political charges, on top of 42,000 people already imprisoned and considered to be political prisoners.

In Melbourne yesterday hundreds of members of the Australian Oromo community held a rally to call for an end to the violence and for the protection of the human rights of the Oromo people. Victorian Greens member for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell, addressed the rally.

Many Oromo people in Melbourne are forced to watch on as family members or loved ones are affected by violence or forced to flee for their safety. I'd like to acknowledge leadership of the Oromo community in Melbourne and all of those who are taking action in solidarity. The message from the rally was very clear: the violence must end, political prisoners must be released and the Australian government must take a stand for the human rights of the Oromo people. Australia must speak out. Not only has Australia failed Oromo refugees and made it hard for families to be reunited but the government has not spoken out clearly in defence of the human rights of the Oromo people. Already the US, the UK and the EU have condemned the Ethiopian government's conduct, and today I support the call of the Oromo to stand up for their human rights. (Time expired)