HRW: Ethiopia must release opposition figures from arbitrary detention News
HRW: Ethiopia must release opposition figures from arbitrary detention

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement on Monday calling on Ethiopian authorities to immediately release seven “arbitrarily detained” opposition figures. The seven detained individuals belong to the formerly banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). HRW claims their detainment is politically motivated.

The seven OLF figures were arrested in 2020 and 2021. Since then they have allegedly been transferred several times without warning, denied access to lawyers and have not been charged with a legitimate crime. HRW points out the detention violates Ethiopian law as well as international law.

Under the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Article 17, ‘[n]o person may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, and no person may be detained without a charge or conviction against him.” Additionally, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance prohibits states from detaining individuals, “followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

According to HRW, the detention has continued despite orders from the judiciary to release the detainees. For the past few years, Ethiopia has undergone substantial judicial reforms. The Federal Supreme Court announced in 2022 that it was making every effort to stop corruption involving judges in the country. However, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime stated, “addressing the problem of judicial integrity goes hand-in-hand with ensuring diversity.” This problem has proven difficult to solve as many former and current political parties in Ethiopia are based on ethnicity. Many in the country have lost trust in the judiciary, leaving orders open to being ignored.

The OLF claims to represent the Oromia region and Oromo people of Ethiopia. The Oromos make up close to 35 percent of the population, yet previous administrations and regimes marginalized them. They have accused the government of human rights abuses and mismanagement of resources.

The current ruling party, Prosperity Party, has sought to distance itself from the consequences of “ethnic federalism.” This includes brokering a peace deal with Eriteria and ending the civil war in the Tigray region.