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Monday, November 14, 2005

Ethiopia's Parliament Appoints Independent Commission to Investigate Security Forces

EiTB24.com -- The commission will investigate whether security forces used excessive force to quell anti-government protests that killed at least 42 people.

Ethiopia's parliament voted on Monday to appoint an independent commission to investigate whether security forces used excessive force to quell anti-government protests that killed at least 42 people.

In 334 votes for, one against and 72 abstentions parliament empowered its judiciary committee to come up with names proposed to be members of the commission within two weeks.

The violence, Ethiopia's worst in months, erupted after the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) called for new protests against the May 15 election it says the government manipulated.

Human rights activists accused government forces of using excessive force in the crackdown. The clashes stirred fears for stability in the Horn of Africa's dominant power and prompted the West to urge both sides to show restraint.

Foment violence

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had promised an inquiry into the violence.

In a report to parliament before the vote, Federal Police Commissioner Workineh Gebeyehu accused former military officers and neighbouring Eritrea of working with the CUD to "foment violence".

"Based on our investigation, those who have organised the violence were former soldiers and officers, with funds they received from the CUD leadership," Workineh told lawmakers who were debating the unrest for the first time.

"In addition, the government of Eritrea had dispatched members of the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in some parts of Ethiopia to foment violence," he added.

"Farcical" election

Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment.

Eritrea has condemned Ethiopia, with which it fought a 1998-2000 border war, for "bloody suppression and atrocities" during its crackdown on unrest.

In a recent statement Eritrea's Information Ministry said Meles' government was to blame for fanning tensions that led to the bloody clashes and called the election "farcical".

In a detailed report, Workineh said the death toll from the clashes which began on Nov. 1 was 42 people, including 35 civilians and seven police. He repeated Meles' accusation that the CUD was trying to topple the government.

Meles, who denied ballot fraud, said last week CUD leaders and some journalists accused of inciting violence would face treason charges.

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