Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s state of emergency inquiry board says that over 11,000 individuals suspected of inciting political unrest in different parts of the country have been detained.
Board chairman Tadesse Hordofa said the arrests were made since the start of the six-month-long state of emergency on October 9 and those arrested were being held in six detention centres and military camps around the country.
“Some 11,607 individuals have so far been detained in six prisons, of which 347 are female, in connection with the state of emergency declared in the country,” he said in a statement broadcast by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).
All those arrested were above 18 years old, with the majority being youth, farmers, and traders.
“No foreign citizen has been arrested so far,” he said.
A few weeks ago, government reported the release of about 2 000 people after they had been “counselled”. It is unclear whether this figure is part of the current statistics.
The board was due to release a list containing the names of detainees to all regional states starting from Saturday. All regions were required to post the list in public places so that families of detainees could easily identify their whereabouts.
A recent cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Hailemariam Daselegn saw key positions handed to Oromos, whose region has been the centre of protests. Oromia surrounds Addis Ababa on all sides.
Demonstrations spilled into the Amhara region in the north. In a bid to curb the unrest, the government, which has been in power for 25 years, declared a six-month state of emergency “because the situation posed a threat against the people of the country”.
Amnesty International has reported human rights violations, including arbitrary mass arrests, and restricted media access and internet censorship in Ethiopia. Bloggers and activists have also been also arrested but the board chairman did not mention this in his statement.
Hordofa also read a long list of alleged offences committed by the arrested people, ranging from major crimes such as “attacking security forces using firearms” or “killing civilians and members of security forces” to the much more mundane “denying provision of public services” and “disrupting movement of vehicles”.
Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) chairman Merera Gudina reported at a European Parliament hearing that at least 1 500 people were killed in the past year of protests by security forces while 60,000 were detained without due process of law.
“These are mass arrests targeting innocent people just because they have opposed the government and expressed their views. This needs to stop. It is spinning out of control,” he said.
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