By Addis Standard Staff
Addis Abeba, November 13, 2021- Amnesty International said that ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Abeba including children and the elderly were targeted arbitrary arrests and mass detentions after a state of emergency was enacted earlier in November. Most detainees are being held without charge or access to a lawyer, Amnesty said.
Amnesty revealed that arrests are conducted through house-to-house searches by security forces with support from vigilante groups who check the IDs of people on the street. “Detainees, including civil servants, Orthodox priests and a lawyer are being held in youth centers and other informal detention centers across Addis Abeba because police stations are overflowing.” The report spoke of a climate of fear surrounding Tigrayans, scared that they could be rounded up any time.
“Detainees, including civil servants, Orthodox priests and a lawyer are being held in youth centers and other informal detention centers across Addis Abeba because police stations are overflowing.”
Amnesty noted that some of the measures allowed in the state of emergency proclamation where it allows security forces to arrest and detain anyone without a warrant if there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ of cooperation with ‘terrorist groups’, and to detain them without judicial review for as long as the proclamation is in place, violate international human rights law, which prohibits arbitrary detention and discrimination in all circumstances. The report estimates that the number of detainees could be hundreds and potentially thousands.
The individuals interviewed by Amnesty said that a few family members and friends have had limited and irregular access to detainees and many have been denied access to a lawyer. Interviewees told Amnesty International that the police have transferred some of the detainees to places on the outskirts of Addis Abeba.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa urged that authorities must ensure that families are informed of the whereabouts and status of all detainees and that anyone deprived of their liberty has access to lawyers and family members without delay. “The Ethiopian government must immediately end ethnically motivated arbitrary arrests and amend the state of emergency proclamation to bring it in line with international law.”
This comes days after the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) confirmed in its investigation that the arrests appeared likely to be based on identity/ethnicity. The commission further explained that the families of detainees including mothers with children and the elderly family members were prohibited from visiting, and giving food and clothes.
The federal government denies the targeting of ethnic Tigrayans, “There is no systematic targeting involved,” Redwan Hussien, state minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an interview. Redwan insisted that the police arrest individuals based on community tips. Contrary to Amnesty’s report, he said that detainees are released when the police fail to compile evidence against them. He also disputed the EHRC report saying, “I don’t think there are children among detainees. The government doesn’t allow it and it is against the constitution.”
Redwan admits that the arrests are happening but insists that they are not based on ethnic profiling. When asked about the arrest of 16 UN staff as well as 70 WFP drivers, he said, “The police are bound to apprehend and carry out an investigation,” he added, “We must be vigilant because we are in a conflict situation but arrests must not be made haphazardly.”
Redwan declined to comment when asked if the UN staff are accused of having connection with terrorist groups,“That’s for the police to investigate but if there is no evidence against them they will be released.” At the biweekly press briefing held earlier this week, Ambassador Dina Mufti, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said, ”The staff were arrested due to their infringement of the proclamation of the state of emergency”. AS
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