News: Major gaps remain in human rights conditions in Oromia’s prisons, correctional facilities, notes Ethiopian Human Rights Commission

By Fraol Bersissa @FiraolBer

Addis Abeba: The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) held a meeting  in Bishoftu, Oromia region between 22 July- 23 July, 2022 with high-ranking members of the police, correctional facilities and other stakeholders on its observations of 126 police stations and 27 correctional facilities across Oromia for 2022 yearly duration. 

The commission presented its findings in the meetings, whereby it said people who were detained on suspicion of being ‘unfamiliar’ in connection with the current state of affairs, were not logged into the prisoners’ registry. The commission remarked that these individuals did not appear in court as per legally mandated time frame or have not appeared at all. EHRC commented that some of the individuals in areas with prevalent insecurity were arrested following orders from administrative bodies and ‘security councils’.  

Furthermore, there have been instances where people freed by the court, those who had their cases closed or even individuals granted bail have been kept in detention, and additionally, there has been a trend whereby the family members of suspects have been arrested in many police stations, confessions were extracted by way of beatings, and budget shortages have been leading to a lack of food, water and medical assistance to inmates. This falls in line with Addis Standard’s prior reporting on an EHRC study in which it was found opposition figures from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) were ‘detained without due process’ and exposed to mistreatment and subsequently denied medical care. 

In the same study, the Commission  released the findings of its monitoring on the detention of senior leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in various police stations in Oromia regional state. The report confirmed that several OLF leaders and members are “detained without due process.” It  had asked for the immediate release of all detainees held without due process and for the Oromia state to investigate its security officers and officials who beat prisoners and hold them to account, as well as offer  compensations to be offered to the detainees. The chief commissioner of EHRC, Daniel Bekele (PhD), had said :“Because OLF party leaders have been illegally detained for a long time and they should be released immediately and compensated for the damages they sustained.”

Ararsa Mardasa, Commissioner of the Oromia Police Commission, expressed that instability has had its own impact on police work, adding, however, capitalizing on this and abusing rights was wrong and such existing gaps should be rectified. Similarly, it was noted by Commissioner Girma Galan, Crime Sector Official of the Oromia Police Commission, that the EHRC’s findings would be considered input and vowed to take corrective measures accordingly. 

Nonetheless, the commission also made the point that some positive observations were made in terms of categorization and information handling of inmates’, provision of formal education, budgetary allocations to improve food quality-quantity, palatable relations between prisoners and prison administrations, bettering of sleeping amenities and resumption of pardon programs.  AS

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