Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Ethiopia's prime minister on Wednesday announced all political prisoners will be released and Maekelawi, a prison ward at the center of torture allegations, will be closed.
Charges will be dropped for those still waiting for a trial, Hailemariam Desalegn said during a news conference.
Desalegn said the move is designed to allow political dialogue in the country, which human rights groups accuse of using mass arrests and detention to throttle opposition.
The prime minister said Maekelawi will be turned into a "modern museum" and a new center, based on the national parliament's guidelines on human rights and international standards, will replace the prison.
In 2016, Ethiopian officials declared a state of emergency and instituted marshal law after a year of protest calling for political and economic reforms, which prompted a crackdown.