EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 25/03/96
UA 81/96 Fear of torture / "Disappearance" / Death in custody
Legal concern 21 March 1996
ETHIOPIAOlana Bati, aged 75, retired lawyer
Asrat Buli, medical doctor
Baharsitu Obsa (f), singer
Shabbe Sheko (f), singer
Abdella Ahmed Tesso, local government employee
Teshome Mutama, nurse
and many others
Scores of political prisoners have been detained in a new and continuing wave
of arrests of people suspected of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
The arrests began in mid-February 1996 and are taking place in several parts
of the country, including Addis Ababa, Oromia region, Shoa district and Dire
Dawa town. The detainees belong to the Oromo ethnic group (or "nationality"),
from which the OLF draws its support.
The first six named above, have been held without charge, and have not been
allowed access to their families or legal representatives. Some are alleged
to have been beaten or ill-treated. There are particular fears for the safety
of one of them, Teshome Mutama, whose whereabouts since arrest are not known.
Fears of torture are heightened by reports that another, Challa Kebebe, has
died in detention as a result of torture.
Olana Bati, a prominent Oromo elder, who was imprisoned in the late 1970s by
the former Dergue government, was detained in Nekemte on 18 February 1996.
This is his seventh detention without charge or trial since 1992. In October
1994 he was detained in Nekemte in Wollega district, severely beaten and
threatened with death, and held by the local security authorities for three
months despite court orders for his release.
Asrat Buli, a medical doctor at Fincha sugar factory near Bako in Wollega
district, was arrested on 15 February. Baharsitu Obsa and Shabbe Sheko, Oromo
folk-singers living in Addis Ababa, were arrested in mid-February while visiting
the towns of Dire Dawa and Goba respectively. Dalu Bekule was arrested in Addis
Ababa on 16 February. Abdella Ahmed Tesso (known as Abdella "Magazaja", meaning
Municipality, as he works for the Municipality or town council), was arrested
in Dire Dawa on 19 February. Teshome Mutama, a male nurse at Gindeberet hospital
in western Shoa district, and Challa Kebebe, were among dozens of people arrested
in Gindeberet on about 12 February on suspicion of involvement in the escape
of a suspected OLF detainee, former army captain Dugassa Iticha, several of
whose relatives were arrested and reportedly beaten.
The OLF, after fighting the former Dergue government up to 1991, joined the
transitional government headed by President Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian People's
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In 1992, the OLF went into armed
opposition and is continuing to fight the new government established in August
1995. Hundreds of OLF suspects are believed to be currently detained without
charge or trial in different prisons, some held in secret detention places.
There have also been many reports of torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial
executions of arbitrarily detained OLF suspects.