Case study

Country case study: Ethiopia – justice and treatment in detention

A country case study on justice and treatment in detention in Ethiopia from the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.


The UK is concerned about continuing restrictions on opposition and dissent in Ethiopia, through use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) and the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP). Those detained under the ATP include members of opposition groups, journalists, peaceful protesters, and others seeking to express their rights to freedom of assembly or expression, while the CSP has had a serious impact on Ethiopian civil society’s ability to operate effectively.

We are choosing to highlight a number of reports of mistreatment of prisoners in detention. In May, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), whose mandate and powers are defined by Parliament, published a report, “‘Monitoring Report on Respect of Persons Held in Custody of Ethiopian Police Stations”, which described generally poor detention conditions, with some incidents of human rights abuses and unlawful interrogation tactics. The report was based on monitoring of 170 police stations, and inspections were conducted without any prior notification. One institution, the Maekelawi police detention facility, has drawn a high level of criticism from former detainees and international NGOs for alleged mistreatment of its inmates.

Allegations of abuses by the “Special Police” in Somali Region are also a concern. The increased security presence in the region has brought some benefits, including some development of basic services and infrastructure – albeit from a low base. But there have been many reports of mistreatment associated with the Special Police, including torture and execution of villagers accused of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The UK government and the UN have pressed the Ethiopian government to articulate a reform plan for the Special Police. The Ethiopian government has agreed this is needed, so we will encourage them to take action.

We have pressed the Ethiopian government to ensure that all prisoners are treated in full accordance with international standards. We have also consistently raised our concerns about the ATP. Recognising the serious threat Ethiopia faces from terrorism, we have explained to the government the differences between the UK’s and Ethiopia’s legislation in this area. The UK government also recently supported a high-level visit of Ethiopian ministers and officials from Ethiopia’s National Security Council to the UK in order to showcase issues of accountability, oversight and separation of duties in the security arena.

This case study is part of the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.

Published 10 April 2014