Social Affairs

News: COVID-19 State of Emergency Inquiry Board recommends releasing prisoners who qualify for pardon, probation to reduce virus spread

A group of people detained in last May by Addis Abeba police for violating the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Picture: Addis Abeba Police

By Medihane Ekubamichael

Addis Abeba, August 27/2020 – Ethiopia’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Inquiry Board has recommended the release of prisoners who meet pardon and probation requirements in order to reduce the spread of the epidemic within detention centers, state run ENA reported.

In mid August, the state sanctioned Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that more than 9,000 people were detained in the aftermath of the June 29 assassination of popular Oromo musician Haacaaluu Hundessa and the ensuing protest crack downs and deadly violence. EHRC expressed its concerns that the mass detentions in the capital Addis Abeba and its surroundings, as well as Oromia regional state brought in fears that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government was “returning to the iron-fisted tactics of past administrations.” Similar concerns were also shared by Amnesty International.

In a discussion with members of Parliament, the Inquiry Board, chaired by MP Peteros Woldesemayat, the Board recommended the release of inmates who meet the criteria for pardon and probation to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The recommendation comes amidst growing fears of the spread COVID-19 in congested holding centers, many of which are schools, town halls and warehouses converted into detention facilities.

According to the statement the Board sent to ENA, members of the board discussed the potential threats to the state of emergency at the end of the state of emergency and recommended that releasing detainees to be addressed. The Board has subsequently submitted its recommendations to the executive bodies of the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

Furthermore, the Board cautioned that upcoming national and regional cultural and religious festivals including Ashenda/Shadi/Ashandeye/Solel Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif, Meskel Demera and the Ethiopian New Year between now and October, bring large numbers of people, which could lead to the spread of coronavirus.

The Board also recommendation that demonstrations and protest rallies, whether planned or spontaneous, should be carried out with the help of law enforcement and law enforcement.

According to the Board, religious ceremonies, markets, weddings, mourning ceremonies, entertainment, and other events play a significant role in the spread of the virus and thus consultation with religious leaders and community organizations should be held to alleviate the speared.

Ethiopia has so far registered more than 45, 000 COVID-19 cases of whom 725 have died of the virus.

With regard to the period of the COVID-19 State of Emergency, which was declared on April 12/2020 for five months, the Board said unless substitute procedures to end the decree and support the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus were set in advance, there will be a gap in regulating the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

The Board indicated that in addition to having a clear understanding and creating awareness on the available legal options, new and helpful legal frameworks should also be considered. ENA quoted information it received from the House of Peoples’ Representatives as saying that the Inquiry Board will end its mandate by the end of this month.

The Inquiry Board was set up to monitor and follow-up of executions of the COVID-19 state of emergency proclamation and its implementations. AS

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