- Amnesty International says 5,000 people tortured, raped and ‘disappeared’
- Over the last three years the UK Government has given Ethiopia £1 billion
- It pocketed £261.5 million in 2012 and £284.4 million in 2013
Vanessa Allen for the Daily Mail
Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Dessalegn, has rejected accusations that his government tortures its own people
More than £1billion from taxpayers was given in aid to Ethiopia while its security forces tortured, killed and raped, campaigners claimed yesterday.
Amnesty International has documented thousands of shockingly brutal abuses against citizens suspected of political opposition.
The human rights group’s report follows calls for greater scrutiny by Britain and other donors to ensure their money does not support state-sanctioned killings and brutality.
Amnesty warned that thousands have faced repeated torture while unlawful state killings have been carried out in a ‘relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent’.
Horrors inflicted on ordinary Ethiopians include women being gang-raped and tortured by prison guards. Amnesty’s report also tells how a teacher was stabbed in the eye with a bayonet after refusing to teach pro-government propaganda to his students.
Entire families were arrested with parents and siblings ‘disappearing’ after they were taken to army camps, said Amnesty.
Britain has donated more than £1billion to Ethiopia in the last five years alone. The Government has denied funding security forces in the autocratic one-party state.
But Britain’s relationship with the East African country is likely to come under scrutiny in a judicial review into claims made by a Ethiopian farmer.
He has been given legal aid in this country to pursue allegations that UK aid supported the regime while it forced thousands of villagers like him from their land using murder, torture and rape.
Ethiopia remains one of the world’s poorest countries following decades of drought and famine, suffering highlighted by the 1984 Band Aid fundraising appeal.
The West has been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuse and effectively propping up the regime because of its support for the so-called war on terror.
Ethiopia has given support to combat radical groups such as Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa and Al Shabaab in neighbouring Somalia. Last year, an independent analysis accused countries giving aid of not stopping the hardline Addis Ababa regime from abusing its citizens.
It said donors had ‘failed to take decisive action to prevent policies that deny the basic human rights of some of the poorest and most marginalised people of Ethiopia’.
The US report went on: ‘Donor organisations have failed to hold the Ethiopian government to standards of human and political rights, a neglect principally illustrated by the accounts of the forced relocations of entire communities in the name of development.
It should be no surprise that unchecked assistance to a hegemonic political party gets diverted to efforts to maintain political control,’ it added.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening is under pressure to investigate allegations that major recipients of British aid are guilty of torture state-sanctioned murder
The Oakland Institute, of California, added that the Department for International Development was the third biggest donor to the country after the US and the World Bank.
Questions have been raised over the value of some of the projects funded by the DfID in Ethiopia.
Last year, the Daily Mail told how £4million of taxpayers’ money paid for an Ethiopian version of the Spice Girls to spread a message of empowerment to women.
The DfID denies that aid money is used to force people from their homes or to fund security forces.
A spokesman said Britain gave £261.5million to Ethiopia last year. This was used to provide clean drinking water for more than 250,000 people, send 1.6million children to primary school and ensure 110,000 mothers gave birth safely.
‘Not a penny goes to Ethiopia’s police or security sector,’ he said. ‘We work with independent agencies like Unicef to make the security and justice sector fairer and more accountable, eg helping women and girls get better access to justice.
‘The UK provides targeted funding for health, education and sanitation, not to the central Ethiopian treasury. We have robust legal and accounting checks to ensure UK aid is spent where it is intended.
‘We regularly raise human rights with the relevant authorities, including at the highest level of the government.’
A spokesman for the regime ‘categorically denied’ Amnesty International’s claims. Redwan Hussein also accused the campaigners of being ‘hellbent on tarnishing Ethiopia’s image again and again’.
‘They put hot coals on us. We screamed as our clothes melted’
Harrowing accounts of rape and brutality were highlighted by Amnesty International.
In one case, three teenage girls arrested with their parents were tortured with hot coals by soldiers at a military camp where they were held for years.
One sister, named only as Nooria, said the soldiers came to her family’s home when she was 14 or 15, after her father was arrested on suspicion of political dissent.
She said she was interrogated and beaten, and still carried horrific physical scars from when she and her sisters were burned.
‘Two soldiers did this to me. They came into the room, tied up our hands and made us lie down on our backs. They put hot coals on my stomach. They didn’t just burn me; they also burned my two sisters.
‘Our clothes melted on us. We screamed but the soldiers didn’t care, they’re accustomed to screaming.’
Nooria was later released with one of her sisters but has not seen her parents or eldest sister since.
Other detainees told the campaigners how molten plastic was poured onto their legs. There were also shocking accounts of captors cutting off the ears and fingers of prisoners.
A 33-year-old woman told Amnesty she was detained without charge for nine months in a military camp.
‘I was thoroughly beaten,’ she said. ‘I cried for help saying that I was not guilty and should not be killed.
‘One night, three men came to my cell and said that I was being taken for interrogating but they just took me to a room and raped me.
‘After that, they just threw me back into the cell. I was not the only one –they would do the same to the other women there.’
A second woman said: ‘I was raped by three men – one after the other. I remember them very clearly and can identify them. Rape happened several times. This was not unique to me, the other women in the cell had the same experience.’
A midwife said he was beaten and punished after delivering the baby of the wife of a member of the banned Oromo Liberation Front.
A university student told how he was arrested at gunpoint after winning a competition to produce a business plan because security forces said it was political.
The student was beaten, starved and endured months of interrogation, including a mock execution.
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