Ethiopian army chief, regional president killed in unrest

Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2019
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Ethiopian army chief, regional president killed in unrest

  • The government said there had been a failed coup attempt against the head of regional government in Amhara
  • The developments underscore the challenges facing the Horn of Africa nation's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed

ADDIS ABABA: At least two senior Ethiopian officials were killed during an attempt by an army general to seize power in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara, state television reported on Sunday.

Speaking on state television late on Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar earlier that day and that Ethiopia’s Chief of Staff General Seare Mekonnen was among the casualties.

“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said. According to Abiy, regional government officials were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.

It was unclear whether Seare had survived. Both the head of Amhara’s regional government, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser, were killed, state media reported early Sunday. The coup attempt was orchstrated by General Asamnew Tsige, the region’s head of security, state media reported.

Abiy said Seare had been shot while trying to fend off the attackers. The prime minister’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters later that it was unclear whether General Seare had been killed or wounded but a regional television broadcaster reported Seare had been killed, alongside another senior military official, Gize Abera.

Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people where years of political violence led to the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.

Ethnic bloodshed — long held in check by the state’s iron grip — has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government is led by Ambachew Mekonnen.

“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.

The US Embassy said on Saturday that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, and some residents told Reuters about hearing six shots ring out in a suburb near the country’s Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

“Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the Embassy said on its website.

People in many parts of Ethiopia reported being unable to access the Internet beginning late Saturday although the government has not stated whether it had cut it off. Authorities have cut off the Internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.

Early on Sunday, Brig. Gen. Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”

Residents in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.


Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

In this Wednesday, March 20, 2019 file photo, a woman prays at the Potocari memorial center for victims of the Srebrenica genocide, in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2019
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Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

  • The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II

THE HAGUE: The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday slashed the state’s liability for 350 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying peacekeepers had only a “slim” chance of preventing their deaths.
The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified residents who had sought safety in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the besieged Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
The lightly armed Dutch troops eventually became overwhelmed and shut the gates to new arrivals before allowing Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic to evacuate the refugees.
The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Judges, however, on Friday reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent the Dutch state’s responsibility for compensation to the families in a case brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ organization.
The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II and the darkest episode in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
“The Dutch State bears very limited liability in the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ case,” the Supreme Court said. “That liability is limited to 10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives of approximately 350 victims.”

After the ruling, Mothers’ president Munira Subasic, who lost family members including her son, husband and father in the massacre, expressed disappointment.
“Today we experienced humiliation upon humiliation. We could not even hear the judgment in our own language because we were not given a translator,” she told AFP.
At Srebrenica “every life was taken away 100 percent. There is little we can do with 10 percent, but yes, the responsibility still lies where it does.”
“I only have two bones. I have found less than 10 percent of his body,” she added, referring to her teenage son.
The Dutch government accepted responsibility, saying it was relieved that “finally there was some clarity.”
A Dutch court originally held the state liable for compensation in 2014. In 2017 the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court.
The lower court had said in 2017 that the Dutch actions meant the Muslims were “denied a 30 percent chance of avoiding abuse and execution,” and thus the Dutch state was liable for 30 percent of damages owed to families.
The Supreme Court agreed that “the state did act wrongfully in relation to the evacuation of the 5,000 refugees” in the compound, including 350 Muslim men the Bosnian Serbs were unaware of.
It said the Dutch peacekeepers “failed to offer these 350 male refugees the choice to stay where they were, even though that would have been possible.”
But explaining the decision to reduce the liability, the Supreme Court said that “the chance that the male refugees would have escaped the Bosnian Serbs had they been given the choice to stay was slim, but not negligible.”
Reacting to the ruling, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a statement the cabinet would “examine how to best implement the liability for damages suffered by the relatives in such a way it does justice to the Supreme Court ruling.”

In a swipe at the failure of other foreign powers to act during the 1995 crisis, the top court added that the “chance of Dutchbat (the Dutch UN mission) receiving effective support from the international community was slim.”
Former Dutchbat soldiers attending the case said they were disappointed on behalf of the victims’ families.
“I think the final judgment is a bit disappointing, especially when you see the court ruling of 30 percent and now it’s downgraded to 10 percent,” said Remko de Bruijne, a former Dutch blue helmet who served at Srebrenica.
“I think that’s not fair for the Mothers of Srebrenica but, on the other hand, now it’s clear,” he told AFP.
Srebrenica has cast a long shadow over The Netherlands, forcing a the government to resign in 2002 after a scathing report on the role of politicians in the episode.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is currently serving a life sentence in jail in The Hague after being convicted of genocide over Srebrenica and war crimes throughout the 1990s.
Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an international tribunal in The Hague.
Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague at the time of his death in 2006.