By Getahun Tsegaye @GetahunTsegay12
Addis Abeba, November 17/2021 – The Ethiopia Rights Commission (EHRC) in a press release today expressed concerns over its inability to gather information and compile a report on detainees detained under the state of emergency decree. The Commission recalled the statement it issued on November 8, 2021 where it stated its intentions to deploy monitoring teams in Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa regarding the conditions of detainees. It complained that complete information on the total number of people detained could not be obtained
The EHRC said that information obtained on November 12, 2021 from Kirkos Sub-City confirmed that a total of 714 people were arrested in connection to the state of emergency of whom 124 were women. “It is estimated that thousands of people were arrested in Addis Ababa alone as similar arrests were made in other sub-cities and arrests continued,” EHRC added.
Meanwhile in Dire Dawa, up to 300 people were arrested according to the press release. “While some people were arrested on the basis of information provided by the security forces, most of them were reportedly arrested based on community tips. Large numbers of the detainees were of Tigrayan ethnic background,” the commission said.
“Most of them were reportedly arrested based on community tips. Large numbers of the detainees were of Tigrayan ethnic background.”EHRC
The rights commission said that law enforcement officers responded to the alleged ethnic targeted arrest by saying, “People are being arrested not because of their ethnicity, but because of the state of emergency. Because both designated terrorist organizations [TPLF and OLA] are ethnic based organizations, the arrests may appear ethnically motivated”
The commission highlighted that the state of emergency has given law enforcement agencies the authority to detain suspected individuals who are believed to work with the two organizations [TPLF and OLA] are ethnic based ones. In the statement, the commission expressed its concern over the arrestees stating that insufficient efforts were being made to justify whether the origin of the allegations are not linked to ethnic profiling and whether there were reasonable suspicions.
“Some stations are overcrowded, have no toilets, and do not have enough access to air and lighting,” the commission said, describing the conditions at detaining centers it visited, “ It was observed that in most of the detention centers there was a lack of access to health care and that some of the detainees were suffering from illness. No precautionary measures were in place in relation to COVID-19.”
The Commission also disclosed that some detainees complained of being unable to contact their families, after their sudden detention from their workplaces and street, and were unable to submit necessary work documents and materials to their offices. According to the press release, detainees told the commission that most of the detainees believed that they had been arrested because of their ethnicity and that they had not been informed of the reasons behind their arrest.
The detainees further told the commission that they had not been beaten or physically assaulted by police officers guarding the detention centers or during their detention. The rights commission said that during its investigation it established that the proclamation of the state of emergency was not implemented in a manner that respects human rights principles, such as “the importance of protection, fairness and impartiality.”
Most of the detainees believed that they had been arrested because of their ethnicity and that they had not been informed of the reasons behind their arrest.
The EHRC called on law enforcement agencies to immediately release those who they no longer have evidence that confirms reasonable suspicion against, especially the elderly, nursing mothers, and those with health problems, in accordance with the provisions of the proclamation.
It also called upon concerned bodies to closely monitor the situation, to understand the spirit of the state of emergency proclamation and to ensure that it is carried out in a fair, transparent and impartial manner.
The commission, in particular, recommended that law enforcement officials make sure that all detainees are arrested on the basis of reasonable suspicion. It urged immediate action to improve the human rights conditions of detainees, particularly in the areas of health, sanitation and other services.
The Commission concluded its statement by recalling its establishment that vested powers to it to monitor human rights at all times, including during emergencies, and urged all concerned bodies to cooperate in its monitoring activities. AS