Ethiopia is a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In September 2012, following the death of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister. In national parliamentary elections in 2010, the EPRDF and affiliated parties won 545 of 547 seats to remain in power for a fourth consecutive five-year term. Although the relatively few international officials allowed to observe the elections concluded that technical aspects of the vote were handled competently, some also noted that an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place prior to the election. Authorities generally maintained control over the security forces, although Somali Region Special Police and local militias sometimes acted independently. Security forces committed human rights abuses.The most significant human rights problems included: restrictions on freedom of expression and association, including through arrests; detention; politically motivated trials; harassment; and intimidation of opposition members and journalists, as well as continued restrictions on print media. On August 8, during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, security forces temporarily detained more than one thousand persons in Addis Ababa. The government continued restrictions on activities of civil society and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) imposed by the Charities and Societies Proclamation (the CSO law).
Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; allegations of torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; reports of harsh and, at times, life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; allegations of abuses in the implementation of the government’s “villagization” program; restrictions on academic freedom; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement; alleged interference in religious affairs; limits on citizens’ ability to change their government; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities; clashes between ethnic minorities; discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on worker rights; forced labor; and child labor, including forced child labor.
Impunity was a problem. The government, with some reported exceptions, usually did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.
Factions of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an ethnically based, violent, and fragmented separatist group operating in the Somali Region, were responsible for abuses.
SECTION 1. RESPECT FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE PERSON, INCLUDING FREEDOM FROM: a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life Members of the security forces reportedly committed killings.
On August 8, security forces in Addis Ababa detained more than one thousand Muslims participating in Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Authorities released most of the detainees shortly thereafter, but there were credible allegations some of the detainees died while in detention.
There continued to be reports of abuses, including killings, by the Somali Region Special Police.
Scattered fighting continued between government forces – primarily regional government-backed militias – and elements of the ONLF. Clashes between ethnic groups resulted in injury and death.
There were several reported cases of disappearances of civilians after clashes between security forces and rebel groups.
Security forces detained at least 12 residents of Alamata town in the northern Tigray Region in January followingprotests against government plans to demolish illegal housing units. The whereabouts of the detainees remained unknown at year’s end.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, there were reports security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.
Authorities reportedly tortured Solomon Kebede, a columnist with Muslim Affairs magazine (see section 2.a.).
Sources widely believed police investigators often used physical abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa. Human Rights Watch reported abuses, including torture, occurred at Maekelawi. In an October report the NGO described beatings, stress positions, the hanging of detainees by their wrists from the ceiling, prolonged handcuffing, the pouring of water over detainees, verbal threats, and solitary confinement at the facility. Authorities continued to restrict access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi.
In 2010 the UN Committee Against Torture reported it was “deeply concerned” about “numerous, ongoing, and consistent allegations” concerning “the routine use of torture” by police, prison officers, and other members of the security forces – including the military – against political dissidents and opposition party members, students, alleged terrorists, and alleged supporters of violent separatist groups like the ONLF and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The committee reported that such acts frequently occurred with the participation of, at the instigation of, or with the consent of commanding officers in police stations, detention centers, federal prisons, military bases, and unofficial or secret places of detention. Some reports of such abuses continued during the year.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and, in some cases, life threatening. There were numerous reports that authorities beat prisoners. Medical attention following beatings reportedly was insufficient in some cases.
Physical Conditions: As of September 2012 there were 70,000-80,000 persons in prison, of whom approximately 2,500 were women and nearly 600 were children incarcerated with their mothers. Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults and sometimes incarcerated small children with their mothers. Male and female prisoners generally were separated.
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