Ethiopia: Torture has worsened with the return of war
The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and our network members, the Ethiopian human rights council (EHRCO) and the Association for human rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), have submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee against Torture on the situation of torture and ill-treatment in Ethiopia.
Since its last review by the UN Committee against Torture in 2011, Ethiopia has shown no improvement in terms of the implementation of the Convention against Torture. From 1995 to 2018, the country lived under an authoritarian regime that used torture against human rights defenders and political opponents. For many years, counter-terrorism measures have had a harmful effect on the protection of human rights in the country by restricting unjustly the legal guarantees against torture.
When current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018, he initiated important political changes, including the closure of major detention centres, such as Maekelawi, and the release of thousands of political prisoners – in particular, those who had been arrested for “terrorism”. That reforming drive that brought an end to the 20-year standoff with Eritrea earned him the Nobel Peace prize in 2019. The new president lifted restrictions on the independent media and invited the country's once-banned opposition groups to return from exile. He backed a woman to become president, introduced gender parity in the cabinet and established a ministry of peace.
Unfortunately, Ethiopia has experienced new waves of turmoil since November 2020 when the Tigray regional government attacked the national defense force in the north and the new Peace Prize winner ordered a military offensive to start a war. The conflict has been going on for over two and a half years now destabilising parts of the country and displacing tens of thousands of people. This led to a new proclaimed state of emergency on 2 November 2021 during which many massive and gross human rights violations have been committed, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
The government has ignored all of the Committee’s main recommendations, and has neglected necessary legal and policy changes and adopted a more violent approach to dissidents.
The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), and its network members, the Ethiopian human rights council (EHRCO) and the Association for human rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), have documented two decades of torture against human rights defenders and political activists in reports published in 2021 and 2022. It appears that the government security forces have adopted a punitive strategy in the conflict regions by using excessive force and resumed systematically use of torture despite having started important democratic changes and reforms in 2018. In addition, the government is repeating its old habits of repressing dissenting voices, especially human rights defenders and political opponents. Arbitrary arrests, incommunicado torture and secret detention have resumed. This report shows that the government is stepping back on its human rights obligations.
This report One step forward two steps back in fighting torture is a contribution of civil society organisations to provide the CAT with factual elements to assess the implementation of the Convention in the context of the upcoming review of Ethiopia.
The full report is available here
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