- The Amnesty International (AI) has today called on the Ethiopian government to immediately disclose the names and fate of more than 35 people believed to be held by its security forces on political grounds since 24 April.
The group has further said it had learned that additional arrests were reportedly been carried out over the past several days, with further arrests expected.
According to AI, many of the victims are believed to have been arrested for their alleged involvement in planning a thwarted attack on the government, while others appear to have been arrested for their own or family members’ peaceful political opposition to the government.
Amnesty further said that amongst the 35 people, is an 80-year-old grandfather in urgent need of medical care.
“We are very concerned about the fate of those arrested,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
“Several may have been detained solely for their family ties to men who have expressed political opposition to the government. They should be released immediately. Any others should be charged with a recognisable criminal offense or released. All should have immediate access to their families, lawyers and any medical care they may require,” further lamented the deputy director.
Amnesty International said that while protection of national security is a responsibility to which governments rightfully attach high priority, it cannot be used to justify human rights violations.
The group stressed that several of those detained have been arrested solely on the basis of family ties with members of Ginbot 7, an opposition group established in the aftermath of the disputed 2005 elections.
In addition to General Tefera Mamo and other former military officers who have recently been detained, Amnesty International also said it had confirmed that at least one opposition party member and family members of opposition party leaders have also been detained, including a cousin of the opposition figure Berhanu Nega.
Many or all of those recently arrested are believed to be held in Maekalawi Prison in Addis Ababa, though the government has not yet confirmed, according to AI, adding that due to the secret nature of their detention, they are at significant risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.
After an initial court appearance last week, those detained were remanded into custody for 14 additional days to allow for further investigation and charges to be filed, said Amnesty International, adding that it expects their next court appearance to take place on or about 12 May 2009.
“Peaceful opposition to the government is not a crime - and being related to someone who opposes the government is not a crime. The Ethiopian government must not detain, harass or intimidate opposition party members or their family members in the course of ongoing security operations. This will only serve to exacerbate an already tense political climate pervading the country,” said Michelle Kagari.
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