Date: 16th May 2011 Ref: OHRC/St01/05011
Ethiopia: Torture Victims in the Ogaden are Helpless
In the Ogaden, there is neither arrest nor interrogation without torture. Usually, Ethiopian armed and security forces systematically torture suspected ONLF members to extract confessions or information about ONLF. A number of people were tortured to death while many others were disabled. OHRC’s researchers have examined a large number of torture survivors; some of them were disabled, while others bore scars of torture on their bodies.
Torture methods employed against detainees by the Ethiopian armed and security forces in the Ogaden are numerous, few among them are:
- An indiscriminate beating with gun butts and barrels, heavy sticks or iron bars.
- Gang raping of women and child molestation.
- Beatings on the soles of the feet, joints, ankles, shinbone and the testicles.
- Knocking detainee’s head into detention walls.
- Victims are burned with cigarettes.
- Deprivation of sleep and food.
- Death threats, with charged guns pointed at the head.
- Suffocation of detainees by burying them alive, which causes death in many cases.
- Forcing detainees to drink urine or salty water.
- Suspending from the roof upside-down.
- Denial of sanitary visits.
- Victims are left for extended periods, in prostrate position under the burning sun with their hands and legs tied together behind the back.
Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states that: "Each State party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture."
Common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 prohibits torture during internal armed conflict. States are also required to bring those responsible for torture to justice and to give redress and compensation to those who have been tortured.
Article 18(1) of the Ethiopian Constitution states that: “No person shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The Ethiopian government has acceded to several international human rights instruments, including the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
However, in the Ogaden Ethiopian security and armed forces have been given a carte blanche and blanket impunity to torture to death, whoever they want under the pretext of suspected support and sympathy for the ONLF.
To the best of the Ogaden Human Rights Committee’s knowledge, The Ethiopian government has done nothing to stop or prevent human rights violations in the Ogaden. On the contrary, it encourages, decorates and promotes violators to higher ranks. Since the current Ethiopian government came to power in 1991, no one has been charged for these horrendous crimes, which have been committed in the Ogaden by the Ethiopian armed and security forces.