EHRC calls on the Law Enforcement Agencies to improvise State of Emergency conditions

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Ethiopian Human Rights Commission expressed grave concern over the inability to gather information on the treatment of detainees, detention, and detainees in connection with the proclamation regarding the state of emergency.

The Commission said in a statement that it has been monitoring the deployment of monitoring teams, especially at the federal level in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. The commission visited police stations and detention centers in Kirkos and Yeka sub-cities of Addis Ababa, interviewed detainees and their families, and gathered information at the sub-city and woreda levels with police officers and leaders. It also strengthens information based on suggestions and complaints.

On the other hand, the officials of Addis Ketema, Lideta, Gulele, Bole, and Arada sub-cities have stated that they will not provide information if they do not issue an order and that the prisoner will not be able to visit.

Complete information on the number of people detained by the Commission could not be obtained. The commission received comparative information from Kirkos sub-city, stating that 714 people were arrested in connection with the state of emergency in the sub-city 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. In Dire Dawa, up to 300 people were arrested.

Some people were arrested on the basis of information provided by the security forces, but most were reportedly arrested on the basis of information received from the community, and a large number of them were from Tigray.

Responding to a question about the arrests, law enforcement officials said:

EHRC recognizes that the state of emergency has given law enforcement agencies the authority to detain people suspected of collaborating with terrorist groups. However, in the case of report-based arrests, insufficient efforts are being made to establish the origin of the allegations and to establish whether there are reasonable suspicions. In some cases, EHRC observers observed the release of detainees in connection with the proclamation, claiming that they were not Tigrayans.

Monitoring groups observed that in various areas, men and women over the age of 60, including some 80-year-olds, nursing mothers, families of detainees, and other detainees who were reported to be mentally ill or in need of regular treatment were also arrested.

Most of the detainees were first taken to nearby police stations, where, as their numbers increased, they were taken to multidisciplinary youth centers and some training centers in each suburb. It was also confirmed that some people were taken from Addis Ababa to the high-security prison, commonly known as “Abba Samuel”. The commission also received complaints from people whose families had not yet been identified.

Some stations and restrooms are overcrowded, have no adequate sanitation, and do not have enough air and light. In Kirkuk sub-county, for example, 241 people, including the elderly and the mentally ill, were forced to share the only toilet on campus in a 20 m youth hall, measuring only 10 m. The commission noted that in some cases, men and women were being held in solitary confinement and that there were disturbing reports of sexual harassment.

During EHRC’s visit, 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 will be taken in the areas visited by the Commission. The Commission also contacted people who were unable to contact their families, who were suddenly detained from their workplaces or on the street, and who were unable to submit necessary work documents and materials to their offices.

He told the commission that most of the detainees believed that they had been arrested because of their ethnicity and that they had not been told why they had been arrested or detained. The detainees interviewed by the commission mentioned that they had not been beaten or physically assaulted by police officers guarding the detention centers or during their detention. Police in some of the areas visited by the commission are also trying to treat the detainees and their families to the best of their ability, but a large number of detainees has made it difficult to manage their detention.

In some parts of the country, the release of elderly people and those in need of medical treatment was encouraging. However, due to inconsistencies in the release and screening process, the commission noted that in some suburbs, people released on the basis of age or medical condition were re-arrested on the grounds that “they were released without the consent of the command post.”

Overall, the Commission’s findings show that the proclamation of a state of emergency has not been implemented in a manner that respects the principles of “strict necessity, fairness, and impartiality.”

EHRC, therefore, calls on the relevant law enforcement agencies to implement the following recommendations as soon as possible:

The immediate release of those who did not have the necessary information, especially the elderly, nursing mothers, and those with health problems, in accordance with the provisions of the Proclamation.

Encourage law enforcement to ensure that any arrests are made in a spirit of urgency, fairness, and impartiality and that law enforcement agencies ensure that all detainees are detained on reasonable grounds.

It urges immediate action to improve the human rights of detainees, in particular access to health, sanitation, and other services.

The Commission also recognizes that, in accordance with the powers vested in it by the Establishment Proclamation, it monitors human rights at all times, including during emergencies, and urges all concerned to cooperate in its monitoring activities.