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Ethiopia: Detainees tortured and ill-treated in the capital’s main detention centre

last updated Oct 25, 2013

Maekelawi, the main detention centre in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa, was the location of cruel human rights violations, according to a report of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Political detainees have allegedly been tortured and ill-treated by the security forces.

In its report, HRW documented cases of unlawful interrogation settings and poor detention conditions as well as the denying of the detainees basic needs, the refuse of access to legal counsel and torture and ill-treatment in order to get information and confessions. Source of information have been interviews with more than 35 former Maekelawi detainees and their relatives.


Political opponents are frequently victims of arbitrarily arrest, political prosecutions and get detained at Maekelawi prison. According to reports of detainees, they were slapped, beaten with various objects and kicked by the police force. HRW reported, that “Maekelawi officials, primarily police investigators, have used various methods of torture and ill-treatment against those in their custody.”


Several independent human rights investigations took place in Maekelawi during the last years and the prison conditions and treatment of detainees were criticized in various reports. However, due to mainly two laws, the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, the implementation of human rights monitoring mechanism and legal rights against torture and ill-treatment was weaken.


Ethiopia’s government adopted a three-year human rights action plan in order to improve the situation of persons deprived of liberty. However, it focuses on capacity building and does not include concrete steps to decrease the routinely use of force against detainees by the authorities.

“More funds and capacity building alone will not end the widespread mistreatment in Maekelawi and other Ethiopian detention centers,” Leslie Lefkow, HRW’s deputy Africa director said. “Real change demands action from the highest levels of government against all those responsible to root out the underlying culture of impunity.”


In response, the Ethiopian authorities said the report was “extremely biased and ideologically marred” and criticised the study for basing on only 35 former detainees rather than an on-sight investigation.


HRW: Ethiopia: Political Detainees Tortured


Spiegel Online: Äthiopien: Menschenrechtler prangern Folter politischer Gefangener an


BBC: Ethiopia police 'torture and abuse' political prisoners


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