Ethiopia: Decades of impunity for perpetrators have created a torture-prone system

Joint news release, 29 July 2021

Addis Ababa, Geneva – The torture, massacres and mass sexual violence currently happening in the Tigray region of Ethiopia are rooted in three decades of a torturous environment and administration. The systematic abuse of the past 20 years has left survivors without rehabilitation or reparations. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and its partner the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) have met these survivors and gathered their stories in a thorough report documenting human rights violations in the country.

In the last two decades, thousands of Ethiopians have suffered torture at detention centres and prisons in different parts of the country. Torture was used as a weapon to oppress human rights defenders and political opponents”, declared Eden Hailu, Executive Director of the AHRE in Ethiopia. “We have documented terrible testimonies of ex-inmates who were arrested and tortured on alleged terrorism charges, but most likely because of their ethnicity. After their release they were left with deep physical and psychological scars.”

Many prisoners were detained incommunicado for several months without access to sunlight or in rooms with artificial light that was too bright for comfort. Many were left without clothes or without medication despite bleeding wounds. Some suffered hours of torture until they passed out.

The government of Prime Minister and Nobel Prize for Peace laureate Abiy Ahmed implemented key anti-torture reforms, including the closure of major detention centres. However, it has not provided physical, psychological and long-term socio-economic assistance to ex-detainees”, regretted Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the OMCT. “By failing to punish torture perpetrators and to rehabilitate victims, the State encourages law enforcement officials to use torture when they face dissidence”.

Three years after Abiy Ahmed’s reforms, the old demons of torture have returned to haunt Ethiopia and are threatening to bring the country’s proclaimed commitment to human rights to naught. This attempt to deny and ignore torture victims coupled with the reintroduction of torture in security operations in the Tigray, reveals a culture of impunity that was never fully uprooted and needs to be addressed at a structural level.

Find the full report here : Surviving Torture. A call to address three decades of untold tragedy for torture victims in Ethiopia

For more information, please contact:
In Geneva: Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),, mobile +41 79 539 41 06
In Addis Ababa: Eden Hailu, Executive director, Association of Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE),, mobile: +251 91 092 1294