Date: 20th May 2010                                           Ref: OHRC/PR2/0510

PRESS RELEASE

ETHIOPIA: SHOULD RELEASE UNCONDITIONALLY ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN THE OGADEN 

According to the Principles on Detention or Imprisonment, in particular principles 1, 22, 24, 25 and 26 and SMR rules 9-14, 17-19, detainees shall be kept in humane facilities, designed to preserve health, and shall be provided with adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, medical services, exercise and items of personal hygiene.

However, the Ethiopian authorities held thousands of Somali Ogadenis in over­crowded and filthy military detention camps.

The UN Standard Minimum Rules for treatment of prisoners requires that prisoners are given prompt access to their families, lawyers and to their own doctor, but the Ethiopian law ignores these rights completely.

According to released detainees’ testimonies, detainees are maltreated, tortured, beaten and raped routinely in detention camps during interrogations to extract confessions and information about the ONLF. An ex-detainee said,“Living conditions in detention camps are very desperate and inhumane.”

Article 7 of the ICCPR, provides, inter alia, that:” No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment... " Article 9 prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, and provides that anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of reasons for his or her arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

Nevertheless, for the last eighteen years, thousands of Somali Ogadenis, including politicians, religious scholars, businessmen, students, pastoralists, children, women and elderly people have been detained, tortured, disappeared or killed by the Ethiopian army and security forces, because of their ethnic background, language, religion, or political opinion. No one was ever brought before a fair public hearing. These abuses took place unchecked in the towns as well as in the rural areas. Many were detained in order to extort money. Scores were tortured to death and many others disappeared without leaving a trace.

Recently, the Ethiopian government has released some extortion detainees from the notorious Jail Ogaden, in Jigjiga, while keeping political prisoners in detention indefinitely without charges or trial or sentencing them long terms of imprisonments in political show trials by kangaroo courts.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee, which called for them to be either charged with recognizable criminal offences and given fair trials or released unconditionally, welcomes their release, and asks for all political prisoners and extortion detainees in Ethiopia and in the Ogaden region immediately and unconstitutionally released.
The OHRC calls upon the Ethiopian government to respect prisoners’ basic human rights, including informing their families and relatives about their whereabouts, and granting unrestricted and regular access to them and to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

Ogaden Human Rights Committee
www.ogadenrights.org
E-mail: ohrc@ogadenrights.org