Africa

Ethiopia’s rights watchdog ‘alarmed’ over arbitrary detentions

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says it believes ‘grave human rights violations have been committed in Oromia region’

Addis Getachew   | 06.05.2021
Ethiopia’s rights watchdog ‘alarmed’ over arbitrary detentions

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Thursday expressed “serious concern” over arbitrary detentions across the Oromia region, Ethiopia’s most populous region.

During the period from Nov. 20, 2020 to Jan. 12, 2021, the commission said in a press release that it deployed monitoring teams at 21 selected police stations where a large number of prisoners were being detained, particularly those arrested following the assassination of artist Hachalu Hundesa in June 2020.

“EHRC is alarmed by the conditions of detention at the police stations and believes grave violations of human rights have been committed,” the release said.

“The commission has learned that the detention centers house a large number of people who had been arrested without court orders in connection with ‘the current situation’.”

The release – titled Law Enforcement Operation Should Be Lawful – cited “credible testimonies” to have revealed that no formal investigations were opened against the prisoners and they were not produced before the court within the time set by the law.

“In addition, many of the police stations have been holding suspects whose charges were dropped by prosecutors or who were supposed to be released in accordance with a court order,” it said.

“Those prisoners were nevertheless arbitrarily detained on the basis of the allegation that they are ‘core’ suspects with new charges typically invoked against them by the police.”

It said: “Some of the detainees at the police stations reported being beaten during police arrests and while in detention, and the monitoring teams observed detainees who had open wounds in various parts of their body and those displaying temporary or permanent physical disabilities.”

According to the release, family members of suspects, including fathers or mothers, were detained to force them to produce their children suspected of association with Oromo Liberation Army, also known as Shene.

“There were female detainees in all the police stations visited, some of them with children between the ages of 5 months and 10 years. On the other hand, children between the ages of 9 and 18 detained on suspicion of involvement in criminal activity are being held at various police stations along with adults, contrary to Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code requiring their release on unconditional bail,” it said.

The release also said the EHRC teams found that prisoners were kept in unhygienic and overcrowded rooms, with serious threats to their health while absence of food, water, sanitation and medical services were also reported.​​​​​​​

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