Arbitrary detention of several individuals and risk of torture

Press release

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) express their deep concern regarding the arbitrary detention in Nekemte Town of several individuals including three members of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), their affiliated organisation in Ethiopia, and the risk of torture they may face.

Since July 18, 2007, several individuals have been reportedly arbitrary arrested and detained by the police in Nekemte town, Eastern Wellega Zone in Oromia Region for their alleged links with the armed opposition group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). While some of them were released, eleven remained detained in the Nekemte police station, including three members of EHRCO, namely Mr Tesfa Burayu (EHRCO Nekemte Office Executive Committee Member and teacher), Mr Ibsa Wake (EHRCO Nekemte Office Executive Committee Member and lawyer), and Mr Fekadu Negeri (EHRCO Nekemte Office Executive Committee Member and teacher). The remaining eight are Mr Abraham Likasa, private employee, Mr Workneh Dinsa, teacher, Mr Asefa Gemechu, accountant, Mr Jeregna Kaba, student, Mr Tamirat Tadesse, student, Mr Osman Dawer, student, Mr Kebede Nemera, teacher, and Mr Tekalign Alemayehu, teacher. [1]

According to the information received, the police presented a search warrant stating that the individuals were suspected of "hiding arms, collaboration with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and hiding papers calling for violence". Although the search of their homes resulted in no proof of those allegations, the police reportedly arrested the individuals and detained them.

The three EHRCO members, as well as Mr Workneh Dinsa and Mr Asefa Gemechu, reportedly appeared in court on September 3, 2007. They were remanded in custody until September 13, 2007 for investigation into suspected links with the OLF.

Mr Abraham Likasa was reportedly transferred to Addis Ababa Central Criminal Investigation Department for further investigation. He reportedly appeared in court but the outcome of the hearing is still unknown and he is currently detained incommunicado.

According to the information, the detainees who were brought before the court were represented by a pro bono lawyer.

As of issuing this press release, no information was given as to why three detainees - Mr Jeregna Kaba, Mr Tamirat Tadesse and Mr Osman Dawer have not been brought to court with the others.

OMCT and FIDH express their deepest concern regarding these events, and calls upon the Ethiopian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all above-mentioned persons and to release them immediately and unconditionally in the absence of valid legal charges, and if such charges exist, ensure that they are given a prompt and fair trial, in which their procedural rights are guaranteed at all times.

OMCT and FIDH recall that the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states in article 9 that "[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention".

More generally, OMCT and FIDH call upon the Ethiopian authorities to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Ethiopia.

For further information, please contact:

OMCT: Alexandra Kossin, + 00 41 22 809 49 39 / FIDH: Gaël Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18

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