Ethiopia tortures at ‘Maekelawi’, says US report


By Kirubel Tadesse, Capital

Quoting “numerous reliable sources” the annual human rights report by the US State Department reported “multiple cases of torture” at the Maekelawi (central in Amharic) police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa.

“Numerous reliable sources confirmed in April 2009 that in Maekelawi, the central police investigation headquarters in Addis Ababa, police investigators often used physical abuse to extract confessions,” said the report released in Washington on Friday, April 8.

According to this year’s report, 2010 the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which is submitted annually by State Department to the Congress, several prisoners who were held at Maekelawi and other “nontraditional detention facilities” claimed they were subjected to “lengthy nights of physical mistreatment”.

The reported abuses includes “being made to lie on the ground, handcuffed, blindfolded, and in some cases naked, while interrogators wearing military boots stood on their chests; being whipped with wire and beaten on the head and the insides of their feet; being gagged, hung upside down, and beaten with electrical cords; being threatened with injection of HIV-infected blood; and being subjected to ethnic slurs”.

No immediate response was available from government officials on late Friday after the report was published. Ethiopian government officials have rejected reports by the State Department with human rights concerns before.

In recent years the government said officials at the US embassy in Addis Ababa admitted lacking the capacity to independently verify human rights abuses claims made by opposition groups and they usually “copy paste them” in the annual reports.

The State Department report on its Elections and Political Participation part also details assessments on the handlings of May 2010 elections.
According to the report and sources it quotes, the technical aspects of the vote were handled competently while “an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place in the two years prior to the May elections”.

Back in May 2010 Washington similarly criticized the polls handling followed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi strong rejection of the claims.

Since the May polls and just a week before the latest publication of the human rights report, the US had softened its tone. Donald Booth, US Ambassador to Ethiopia, said “The Ethiopian people have accepted the outcome of this election. It is not our job to challenge their wisdom in that.”

The publication of the annual human rights reports over the last few years has often triggered strong criticism from the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry that often releases the statement criticizing Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the State Department that is responsible for compiling the report such as this year’s that reported various “abuses, unlawful killings, and torture” it said committed by authorities in Ethiopia.

Significance of the content of the annual human right reports on the Ethiopian-American relations is often downplayed by both American and Ethiopian government officials.