Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening, said the 2017 Human Rights Report of the United States Government launched few days ago.
“There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Problems included gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele,” the report said.
“Observers were denied access to these facilities. Activists detained in some of these centers during the state of Emergency reported overcrowding, inadequate food and water, and poor medical care. Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely and where reports stated there was poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees. Detention center officials in Tolay and Awash Arba made more than one hundred detainees use a single open-pit toilet,” according to the report.
“During the state of emergency, the government operated detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla, and detained suspects at various police stations in Addis Ababa. The government also held detainees in military facilities, local administration offices, and other temporary sites. Although conditions varied, problems of gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care were common at sites holding state of emergency detainees.”
It also noted that severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. “For example, one prison in Asella with capacity for 400 held 3,000 inmates. Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities. There were reports that authorities physically abused prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following physical abuse was insufficient in some cases.”
“For example, Ayele Beyene, an inmate of Killinto Prison, died in July while in prison custody. Prison officials reported Ayele’s death to the court on July 24. In a court hearing on July 25, Ayele’s codefendants told the court that they were subject to severe beating in Maekelawi detention center prior to being moved to Killinto Prison. Codefendants also stated they reported Ayele’s condition to the prison authorities repeatedly, but authorities ignored them. Authorities detained Ayele in September 2016 and kept him at the Maekelawi detention center until May 10 when they charged him and seven codefendants with terrorism,” the report said.
Commenting on the overall human rights conditions, the United States government stated that the 2017 Human Rights Report for Ethiopia reflects serious challenges to the Ethiopian people’s ability to exercise their basic rights last year. “We believe there is reason for optimism that the 2018 Human Rights Report will tell a different story, one of progress,” it said.
“Notwithstanding the ongoing state of emergency, about which we have already expressed our views, 2018 has seen positive steps as well, including the release of thousands of prisoners. We are also encouraged by strong and clear statements by Prime Minister Abiy regarding the need for reforms that would ensure Ethiopian’s rights are protected and that they are able to participate in an inclusive political environment.”