Law & JusticeNews

News: Human Rights Watch accuses Ethiopian government of silencing dissent, targeting journalists

Human Rights Watch has made accusations against the Ethiopian government, asserting its engagement in the arbitrary apprehension and confinement of opposition figures, journalists, and critics (Photo: Getty Images)

Addis Abeba – Human Rights Watch has leveled allegations against the Ethiopian government, asserting that it has been engaged in the arbitrary apprehension and confinement of opposition figures, journalists, and critics as part of an escalating effort to suppress dissent.

One case cited by Human Rights Watch occurred in February 2024 when plainclothes security officers detained Batte Urgessa, a spokesperson for the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, and French journalist Antoine Galindo as the two met for an interview at a hotel in the capital, Addis Abeba.

More than 24 hours later, they were brought before a court in the capital. The court granted police a request to detain Batte and Galindo until 01 March to pursue an investigation into unspecified allegations. Following international pressure, Galindo was released from a police station and allowed to depart Ethiopia on 29 February, 2024.

However, Batte’s detention was extended. On 01 March, prosecutors stated he was under investigation for suspected links to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the rights group said. The court ordered Batte to remain in custody until at least 06 March.

This is not the first time Batte has been detained. In March 2022, Addis Standard reported that Batte was arrested and held for one year. During that time, authorities repeatedly transferred him between detention facilities and denied him access to relatives and legal counsel.

He was only released after developing serious health issues that persist today, Human Rights Watch stated.

Seven other OLF opposition leaders detained in the months before Batte’s 2021 arrest remain in jail despite multiple court orders for their release, the organization added.

The detained leaders of the OLF include Mikael Boren, Kenessa Ayana, Dawit Abdeta, Lemi Begna, and Geda Gabisa, who remained in Oromia police custody long after they were freed by a federal court.

In addition, Ethiopian authorities have recently arrested at least five other prominent opposition politicians, Human Rights Watch said. Those detained include Christian Tadele, a member of parliament who has criticized the government’s actions in the Amhara region, and Dessalegn Chanie, another outspoken opposition lawmaker from the Amhara region.

The arrests coincide with mounting pressures on journalists in Ethiopia as well, Human Rights Watch reported.

Galindo’s detention was the first lengthy detention of a foreign correspondent in four years, occurring “in a context of an uptick in intimidation of journalists, which has received scant international attention,” the rights group stated.

“These latest arrests demonstrate that in Ethiopia today, no one is safe from arbitrary arrest and detention,” Human Rights Watch said. “Ethiopia’s long-time partners should condemn the spate of wrongful detentions and challenge the government’s growing intolerance of peaceful dissent.”

Ethiopia has recently been ranked as the third-worst country in Africa for the imprisonment of journalists in 2023, according to the findings of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The number of Ethiopian journalists in detention has risen to eight by the end of 2023, which CPJ said highlights the significant challenges facing the nation’s media environment.

Those detained by the authorities include Genet Asmamaw, Tewdros Asfaw, Aragaw Sisay, Getnet Ashagare, and Beyene Wolde, among others. AS

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button