US report accuses Ethiopian police of rights abuses
By Angola Press | March 10, 2007
|“Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees,” the report charges. During the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited regional prisons, civilian detention facilities, and police stations throughout the country and conducted hundreds of visits involving thousands of detainees.|
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Though the Ethiopian government continued to train police and army recruits in human rights, in detention centres the security personnel often physically abused detainees, says a report released this week by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour of the US Department of State.
In its country reports on human rights practices in 2006, the bureau says prison and pre-trial detention centre conditions in Ethiopia remained very poor, and overcrowding continued to be a serious problem. Prisoners were often allocated fewer than 21.5 square feet (about 1.960 square metres) of sleeping space each in a room that could contain up to 200 persons.
The daily meal budget was approximately US$0.35 (3 birr) per prisoner, and many prisoners had family members deliver food daily or used personal funds to purchase food from local vendors.
The report points out that prison conditions were unsanitary, and access to medical care was unreliable. There was no budget for prison maintenance.
“Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees,” the report charges. During the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited regional prisons, civilian detention facilities, and police stations throughout the country and conducted hundreds of visits involving thousands of detainees.
However, they were restricted from visiting federal prisons, including those where senior opposition, civil society, and media leaders were being held.
Although the Ethiopian constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the report claims that the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice.
On the role of the police and security apparatus, the report says petty corruption remained a problem in the police force, particularly among traffic policemen who solicited bribes from motorists.
Impunity also remained a serious problem, but the government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into such types of abuses.
The federal police force, according to the report, acknowledged that many members of its police force as well as regional police lacked professionalism.
Meanwhile, authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions.
Although the law requires detainees to be informed of the charges against them within 48 hours, this generally was not respected in practice.
While there was a functioning bail system, police officials did not always respect court orders to release suspects on bail.
“The law prohibits detention in any facilities other than an official detention centre; however, there were dozens of crude, unofficial local detention centres used by local government militia,” the report observes.