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HRW: Abuse is a political weapon in Ethiopia

Oct. 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

NAIR, Kenya, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Ethiopian authorities are using torture and other forms of mistreatment to quiet the voice of opposition, Human Rights Watch said in a report Friday.

"Ethiopian authorities right in the heart of the capital regularly use abuse to gather information," Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of African programs at Human Rights Watch, said Friday.

Her organization published a 70-page report documenting serious human rights abuses committed by a national police force since 2010.

Those detained by a federal police force, known as Maekelawi, reportedly abused opposition leaders, civil activists and journalists at their main detention center in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

Lefkow said Ethiopian authorities were using restrictive legal measures as justification for arbitrary arrest and political prosecution. This was in addition to the claims of prisoner abuse.

Detainees Human Rights Watch spoke with said they were hung by their wrists and beaten to extract confessions. Lefkow said from Kenya the claims of abuse have been ongoing at least since elections in 2005. She said it was part of a crackdown on dissent, which occurred in a culture of impunity.

"Beatings, torture, and coerced confessions are no way to deal with journalists or the political opposition," she said.

Human Rights Watch based its report on its interviews with 35 former detainees.

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