HRW: detainees tortured in Ethiopia’s Maekelawi detention center

HRW: detainees tortured in Ethiopia’s Maekelawi detention center

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [report, PDF] Friday that Ethiopian police investigators routinely use torture and other coercive methods to obtain statements and confessions from detainees in Addis Ababa’s Maekelawi detention center. The Maekelawi detention center is used to house the country’s political prisoners, including “opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, alleged supporters of ethnic insurgencies and many others.” Upon arrival to Maekelawi, prisoners are reportedly interrogated in ways amounting to torture and are often denied access to a lawyer. HRW reported [press release]:

Prisoners were repeatedly slapped, kicked, punched and beaten with sticks and gun butts. Some reported being forced into painful stress positions, such as being hung by their wrists from the ceiling or being made to stand with their hands tied above their heads for several hours at a time, often while being beaten. Detainees also face prolonged handcuffing in their cells-in one case over five continuous months-and frequent verbal threats during interrogations. Some endured prolonged solitary confinement, which can amount to torture.

In response, government spokesman Shimeles Kemal dismissed [BBC report] the report as lacking proof and omitting facts.

The questionable treatment of detainees by the Ethiopian government has consistently drawn criticism by the international community, even more so since the passage of the Anti-terrorism Proclamation [JURIST reports] in 2009. Following the passage of the act, which opponents claim limited freedom of speech, the Ethiopian government began to crack down on dissent and rebellion. The Ethiopian government has utilized the law [JURIST report] to arrest several opposition figures and members of the international press, including two Swedish journalists who were convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison for supporting terrorism and entering Ethiopia illegally.