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News: OLF says police dislocates its leaders missing from prison to obstruct NEBE investigation, “highly concerned” for their lives

The missing OLF leaders left to right – Abdi Regassa, Kenassa Ayana, Dawit Abdeta, Michael Boran, Gada Gebissa, Gada Oljira (PhD) and Lemmi Begna (Photo: Social Media, OMN)

Addis Abeba – The opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) says seven of its leaders who are missing from Burayu prison since the evening of 18 April, have been “deliberately dislocated” by the police to unknown location to obstruct an investigation into their “illegal detention” by National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).

The party said in a statement on 21 April that following its repeated appeal, the NEBE wrote a letter to the Oromia Police Commission on 18 April stating that a committee consisting representatives of OLF, the ruling Prosperity Party (PP), the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and NEBE staff would be visiting the Burayu detention center on April 20 to further investigate the detention of OLF leaders.

“One day before the planned visit by the committee, on April 18, 2023 night, the detainees were transferred to an unknown place. This was for the second time that the Burayu Police dislocated prisoners to obstruct transparent investigation,” the statement reads.

The missing party officials are Executive Committee members Abdi Regassa and Michael Boran, Central Committee member Kenasa Ayana, OLF Gulele main office head Gada Oljira (PhD) and senior officials Dawit Abdeta, Lemmi Begna and Gada Gebissa.

“[They] were acquitted by the court but were illegally detained by the Police for the last two years. Now their whereabouts are unknown. We are highly concerned about their lives,” the statement added, further noting that “all of them suffer from different kinds of illnesses”.

The party said “such irresponsible and inhumane treatment of detainees who need close medical attention reveals the blatant human rights abuses by the government”, and called on the international community and rights groups to closely follow and locate the detainees’ whereabouts, and pressure the Ethiopian government to respect the rights of the detainees.

On 11 April, the OLF said in a statement that its imprisoned officials were suffering from different diseases and their health condition was deteriorating from day to day, and urged the government to immediately release them.

The party in its latest statement urged the NEBE to put more pressure on the Ethiopian government to release the detainees without further delay.

In May last year, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report following an investigation into the detention of the party’s leaders in various detention centers in Oromia. The report confirmed that many OLF leaders and members are “illegally detained” and were subjected to abuse. 

The OLF has been repeatedly demanding the release of its leaders since they were imprisoned in 2019, and at times accusing the police of torturing them while in detention. AS

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