Security forces in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, have targeted Tigrayans, including children and the elderly, with arbitrary arrests and mass detentions as part of an escalating crackdown, Amnesty International said today. Most detainees are being held without charge or access to a lawyer.
The arrests have intensified since the government declared a state of emergency 10 days ago as fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) took control of strategic towns in Amhara region some 400 km from Addis Ababa. Arrests are conducted through house-to-house searches by security forces with support from vigilante groups who check the IDs of people on the street. Detainees, including civil servants, Orthodox priests and a lawyer are being held in youth centres and other informal detention centres across Addis Ababa because police stations are overflowing.
“These mass arrests have instilled such a climate of fear that Tigrayans that Amnesty International has spoken to are scared they could be rounded up any time. Those currently locked up have not been charged or brought before a court and many have been targeted purely on the basis of their ethnicity,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Sothern Africa.
“The authorities must ensure that families are informed of the whereabouts and status of all detainees and that anyone deprived of their liberty has access to lawyers and family members without delay.”
The government declared a state of emergency on 2 November, which was adopted by parliament on 4 November. The state of emergency allows the authorities to arrest and detain anyone without a warrant if there is “reasonable suspicion” of cooperation with “terrorist groups”, and to detain them without judicial review for as long as the proclamation is in place, currently for six months. Some of the measures violate international human rights law, which prohibits arbitrary detention and discrimination in all circumstances.