In a report released Friday, Human Rights Watch urged the Ethiopian government to take steps immediately to curb illegal practices in the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector, known as Maekelawi, investigate allegations of abuse and hold those responsible to account.
"Ethiopian authorities right in the heart of the capital regularly use abuse to gather information," Leslie Lefkow, HRW's deputy Africa director, said in a release. "Beatings, torture, and coerced confessions are no way to deal with journalists or the political opposition."
The report, "'They Want a Confession': Torture and Ill-Treatment in Ethiopia's Maekelawi Police Station," documents human rights abuses, unlawful interrogation tactics and poor conditions since 2010. Those detained in Maekelawi include scores of opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, and alleged supporters of ethnic insurgencies.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed more than 35 former Maekelawi detainees and relatives who described how officials denied inmates basic needs, as well as tortured and mistreated them to obtain information and confessions, and denied them access to legal counsel and their relatives.
The Ethiopian government has a three-year human rights action plan that recognizes the need to improve the treatment of detainees, HRW said. However, the plan doesn't address physical abuse and torture but focuses instead on increased capacity.
"More funds and capacity building alone will not end the widespread mistreatment in Maekelawi and other Ethiopian detention centers," Lefkow said. "Real change demands action from the highest levels of government against all those responsible to root out the underlying culture of impunity."
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