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Ethiopia: Torture in the heart of Addis, even as leaders gather in gleaming AU building
Human Rights Watch
Many journalists and diplomats who attend events in Addis Ababa’s gleaming new African Union building are probably unaware that it rests on the site of one of Ethiopia’s most notorious prisons. While that prison was torn down in 2007, its legacy of torture and abuse continues today at the heart of the capital.
Over the past year, I have spoken to dozens of people who were held in a detention centre called Maekelawi in central Addis. They described dire conditions and a range of abusive interrogation methods to extract information and confessions.
Since 2011, scores of high-profile individuals have been detained in Maekelawi under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law, including journalists and opposition politicians, and held for months under the law’s lengthy pre-charge detention period as their “cases” are prepared for trial.
“Getachew,” a 22-year-old ethnic Oromo, was snatched from his university dorm, driven hundreds of kilometres to Addis Ababa, and locked up for eight months in Maekelawi. His parents were never informed of his whereabouts; he was never charged or given access to a lawyer; and never appeared before court. He was ultimately released on condition that he would work for the government.
Like Getachew, many of the people detained in Maekelawi over the past decade are political prisoners — arrested because of their ethnicity, their real or perceived political opinions and actions, or journalism work. Voicing peaceful dissent or criticism of government policy is increasingly risky.
In a new report, ‘They Want a Confession’: Torture and Ill-Treatment in Ethiopia’s Maekelawi Police Station, Human Rights Watch documents how the police who run Maekelawi have tortured and ill-treated detainees during investigations. Former detainees held in the facility since 2010 described how investigators slapped, kicked, and beat them with batons and gun butts. Some were held in painful stress positions for hours upon end.
Some are held in solitary confinement for days or months. Getachew said he was held alone and shackled for five months: “When I wanted to stand up it was hard,” he told me. “I had to use my head, legs, and the walls to stand up.”
Those held in Maekelawi’s two worst detention blocks, nicknamed by residents Chalama Bet [dark house] and Tawla Bet [wooden house], described particularly dire conditions.
To make matters worse, investigators use access to basic facilities and needs to punish or reward detainees. Even access to the toilet can depend on the whim of the police, as Getachew explained: “I was only allowed to use the toilet once a day, although after two or three months, I was allowed twice… They want to get something, and either they get some evidence or they don’t.”
Access to daylight is also restricted; one person said that he was taken outside for just a few minutes three times in 42 days in the dark cells. Several former Chalama Bet detainees complained of lasting vision problems.
Detainees have also been denied access to their families and legal counsel, particularly those detained on politically motivated charges.
Former detainees described being forced, often while being verbally abused and beaten, to sign statements and confessions for crimes they did not commit. Sometimes the confessions are presented in court as evidence or used to put pressure on those released to support the government and ruling party, as in Getachew’s case.
Most recently, the prosecution submitted statements gathered in Maekelawi from prominent members of the country’s Muslim community who were charged under the anti-terrorism law in 2012 for organising peaceful protests. There is credible information that several of the defendants were mistreated in Maekelawi, making their statements questionable.
The fate of those passing through Maekelawi’s gates is largely unknown to the outside world. Tackling the regular abuses of the rights of political prisoners’ right in the heart of the capital requires first acknowledging the violations and then making a commitment to address the culture of impunity among security forces.
Ethiopia’s leaders should publicly state that torture and other ill treatment is prohibited, and should take concrete steps to hold to account those found responsible for these abuses.
Most important, the Ethiopian government should ensure that no one is ever arrested for exercising their basic rights, including by peacefully expressing their political opinions.
That means urgently overhauling Ethiopia’s draconian civil society and counter-terrorism laws. But change is unlikely to happen unless key regional actors such as the African Union, the African Commission on Human Rights Peoples’ Rights, and Ethiopia’s foreign donors make their concerns known.
Turning a blind eye to the abuses in the centre of Addis Ababa should no longer be an option.
Laetitia Bader is an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Human rights watch", really??
you should be kidding us. it looks like the idiotic and anti Ethiopia losers are changing their names. ANYONE who reads the above article under the name “Human rights watch” would not doubt that it’s the exact copy of what the terrorist sympathizers have been shouting for all along!! I strongly believe that the name (Human rights watch") is being abused. otherwise, the group ("Human rights watch") should be carefully watched by the real Human rights watch.
This writer must have been confused in a time line, being in a comatose for the last 30 years, and all of a sudden woke up in the middle of nowhere, still talking about the 1970s derg era maekelawi torture chambers.
Are these HRW people for real? Why are they bent to supporting terrorists? Or are they part of the terrorist agenda of disruption and chaos?
Thank God we have a strong and accountable govt! We can rest assured these hyena HRW can laugh and laugh for the ages, and that’s all they can do. Losers!!
Ye ye Human Rights F… that is what you are!! Igna degmo wey finkich ke-Idgetachin. Kinat new indih yemiakatilachihu. Ingidaws ireru. You have been whining for the last 3 decades and NOTHING, you will be whining for the rest of your life too, and guess what —Nothing!! We will keep marhing to the goal that we have set—–DEVELOPMENT!!!!
@abai the cow . are u out of your mind . may be you are one those weyanees. nothing but an as,, hole weyanee
Obviously what do you expect,anyone who has been to prison, the thugs, murderer, terrorist,thieves all they will tell you is a lie, Even if nothing happened in there,and that is a fact.anyone comes out from prison will never ever tells you what exactly happen in prison. Because the got caught and sent to prison for what they did and this makes them very angry.
Abolbai ,what’s you real problem ,you and your Thuggy bros barking days and nights against ,HRW ,Amnesty International ,CPJ and many many motr Human Rights Organisations ,since your Bandit Masters ,starting by the Chimp Fake PM ,are each time swaring that they had nothing to hide …Afterall the way they are barking against the ICC proves that more than ever they are in real troubles .What can you expect from a bunch of Tyrants ,who are claiming from the International Commuty to be spared from being accountable for the crimes they have committed against their own peoples .Even gathering at former cocentration Camps the likes Auchwitz , Treblinka former Gulags or even Khemer Rouge mass murdering prisons ,they will certainly not give a damn interest about the places . Adgi and Co ., as did two years ago their dead master by parading Debebe Eshetu infront ETV cameras ,are pretending that the Meakelawi Agazi Torture Center ,is afterall a five Star Hotel even better from their Saudi
This garbage ,racist, western born parasite organisation is in Africa to destroy African culture,way of life,tradition etc…
Take these parasites org. and drop them inton afar active volcano. Human right … A White man new colonial solders.
As an individual who values the sanctity of life and abhors the disrespect and maltreatment of another individual, it is both disturbing as well as revolting to read these reports. I do not fault Human Rights Watch for reporting what it hears or observes if done correctly. At the same time, I do not, for one minute, think that the regime is incapable of these acts. Yet, I have a cautious impulse that compels me to be very careful in believing totally individuals who have been interviewed outside of the country either at refugee camps or other locations. The descriptions of ‘Maekelawi’ police station in this report are nothing new: you can hear the same stories repeated by shoe-shine boys all over Addis Ababa. Have all shoe-shine boys been to ‘Maekelawi’?
The primary aim of someone at a refugee camp is to do and say whatever it takes to get out of there. The same is true of anyone who is in transit to a third country regardless of where he is interviewed. Having read about outlandish stories from persons who have either exaggerated or made up their stories, I am compelled to exercise caution in making up my mind.
Whenever a non-political organization injects politics in its work, it undermines it self. This happens whether the error is made once or many more times. To this extent, Human Rights Watch reached a bit too much in other reports involving Ethiopia, and in the process, besmirched its own reputation. My suggestion to HRW is: cleanse yourself of individuals with political zeal as their mission. Hire or retain individuals who are pure analysts and information gatherers. And one more thing: watch who is funding your activities.
Human Rights Watch,
Your business is milking donors in the name of Human Rights. We know that much about you. Leave Ethiopia alone!! You are sitting in Washington and how the hell would you know what is going on in Africa? The government of Ethiopia is busy developing the country and does not want to be bothered. Just leave as alone.
You frat from your brain all day long like it is your as$, ohh wait a minute your head is your as$. To top it every time you loss an argument you turn into a diva and checking without its head…..a never seen combination….. can’t you see how bad this makes your brain frat smell??? geeee dude
And what is all this Eritrea this and the other each time you are cornered and your hidden inferiority complex bolts out on you???
Ethiopia belongs to us, you are a simple refugee and a former foot soldier of Issias Afeworki from Mekele… so keep walking north where ethnic baiting stupids like you and Melese the migit are welcomed! IDIOT!
Did Human rights watch say anything about the west, what they did to IRAQ? Palestine? and so on.
“Laetitia Bader is an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.”
Is she an African, living and working in Africa and doing her job without any interference by the known groups have their own agenda? If not, let ignore this little girl has no idea what is talking about. Why is she so concerned about? Does she know the prison situation elsewhere including in USA, England, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey?
But because of she has another agenda which is money and doing always nasty things about Africa thinking no one challenge her but accepted feeling she is the servant of the superiors, she is on Africa and Ethiopia a nation doing the best to her citizens, region and Africa and they don’t like it and trying to stop it using anything and everything. But they will not succeed.
We know them and the way how they are doing the criminal things against us and Africa. They can try different tactics and approaches, but for us all is the same and bad, we don’t accept and allow. Slavery and colonization is always with us to give the lesson about our weaknesses and the evil nature they have and capable of doing horrible things with no feeling at all.
If it is about Africa, anything matters to Africa must be done by Africans from the African soil meaning institutions located in Africa rather than from London and USA where the English are behind everywhere for everything when it comes to Africa including in USA.
“Over the past year, I have spoken to dozens of people who were held in a detention centre called Maekelawi in central Addis.”
You see how this little queen pricing herself so high and telling her decision about the Ethiopian people.
The solution is simple. Just ignore her and her likes that are servants being part of the centuries old English ways of dealing against the rest of the world especially Africa they have committed countless crimes for so long.
They can try anything to stop development in Africa that would badly affect them in many ways including Africa will not be their product damping ground and also will not be continuing weak and ignorant they are wishing to keep it forever.
Barak Obama grandfather was a servant to an English colonizer. His father was also a kind of slave child to the colonizer. When his father wanted to learn, the English refused him scholarship despite Kenya was under their colony. But USA gave him and the result is his son, Barak became the president to the great nation; USA. The same times the English were/still are consuming Kenyan wealth including its people and also massacring the Kikuyu that must be recognized one of the worst Genocides in human history.
The reason why England refused him to study in highest education was that it was an English policy to keep all blacks ignorant and less educated in order to play their dirty games for generations to come.
So, Africa including Ethiopia doesn’t even notice there is any human right element that are self appointed individuals doing for money while those the anti development and progress in Africa mostly from England and west Europe are financing it and other similar groups. The world knows that.
Therefore, this kind dirty game is over long times ago. She needs to go to Iceland where she can feel home. Or to the desert where her look like i.e. women have no right what so ever including the right to marry the man they like, divorce, work, associate with man, walk alone, drive cars, vote and general they are not be seen as human being. If she does care about human right she has to be in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations and working 24/7 because of the situation is so bad beyond proportion.
I just read bla bla……… human right my ass!
But now, it seems the target is the so called “Gleaming new African Union building".
Really? Human Rights! I wonder how much money they get for the so call organization of Human Rights by using lies after lies after lies about Ethiopia. They should know Ethiopia is protected by a Higher Power. I wonder when they will come to their senses, if they have any to stop accusing Ethiopia and others and try to do something tangable and productive. They could open schools where needed and dig wells for water and clinics for health. This would have been part of their goals. Please please, mind your own business again if you have any. God Bless Ethiopia and its nations.
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