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Ethiopia must release rendition victims: HRW

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] Wednesday called on the Ethiopian government [HRW materials] to release rendition victims in custody or prosecute them in an open court that meets basic fair trial standards. The renditions were the result of a US-backed Ethiopian military intervention in neighboring Somalia [JURIST news archive] in late 2006 in support of efforts by Somalia's Transitional Federal Government [official website] to oust Islamist authorities from Mogadishu. The fighting caused thousands to flee across the border into Kenya, which detained at least 150 people from more than 18 countries. In early 2007, Kenyan authorities rendered dozens of these individuals suspected of terrorism back to Somalia, where they were handed over to the Ethiopian military and questioned by US and Ethiopian intelligence agents. The governments of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia have all denied illegally transporting and jailing people, claiming they have only taken action against legitimate suspects. According to Human Rights Watch, the rendition victims were denied access to their embassies, their families and international relief organizations. Former prisoners have complained of solitary confinement and accused Ethiopian authorities of torture, including the pulling out toenails, holding loaded guns to their heads, the crushing of genitals and being beaten to the point of unconsciousness. BBC News has more.

Human Rights Watch initially raised the west African renditions issue in March 2007 when it claimed [JURIST report] that the US, Kenya, and Ethiopia were cooperating with the transitional government of Somalia to detain refugees from the recent conflict there. Canada, Sweden and Eritrea subsequently pressured Ethiopia [JURIST news archive] to reveal details regarding foreign nationals it has allegedly detained in secret prisons run in collaboration with the FBI and CIA [JURIST report]. In August last year Kenyan Muslims in Nairobi protested that suspects detained in Kenya had been flown on secret rendition flights [JURIST news archive] to Ethiopia, where "aggressive interrogation" took place at the hands of Americans [JURIST report].

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