Ethiopia: Police must account for missing Oromo opposition leader
3 March 2020, 17:50 UTC
(Amnesty) — The police must account for the whereabouts of Abdi Regassa – a senior member of the opposition political party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – who remains missing after security officers in Addis Ababa broke into his home and arrested him alongside eight other party members on 29 February.
The other eight party members were released later the same day, but Abdi Regassa was not. He may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The police have denied they are still holding him according to his lawyer and family members.
The police deny that they have him yet he was last seen in their custody and there is no evidence that he has been released.
“Abdi Regassa’s family and lawyers have spent the last couple of days frantically searching police stations and detention centres across Addis Ababa in an attempt to locate him,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“The police deny that they have him yet he was last seen in their custody and there is no evidence that he has been released. This is understandably causing his family considerable anxiety and distress.”
The authorities must come clean and immediately disclose his whereabouts and allow him access to his family and lawyer.
In the early hours of 29 February, security officers stormed a guest house in the southern part of Addis Ababa where five senior members of the OLF and four supporters were staying. All nine were arrested and taken to the local police station.
The OLF members were then split into two groups; the first group of six were moved to the Addis Ababa Police Commission and eventually released within 24 hours of arrest.
The second group of three, comprising Abdi Regassa and Mikael Gobena, both members of OLF’s Executive Committee, and Kenessa Ayana, a member of OLF’s Central Committee, were taken to an unmarked unofficial detention compound around the 6 Kilo area in Addis Ababa. While Mikael Gobena and Kenessa Ayana were released within 24 hours of arrest, the police continued to detain Abdi Regassa, the two told Amnesty International.
The Ethiopian authorities must stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining opposition figures. They must immediately disclose Abdi Regassa’s whereabouts, charge him with a recognisable crime under the law or release him without further delay.
The police confiscated the mobile phones, driving licenses, passports and bank ATM cards of all the OLF members before releasing them, leaving them stranded.
“The Ethiopian authorities must stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining opposition figures. They must immediately disclose Abdi Regassa’s whereabouts, charge him with a recognisable crime under the law or release him without further delay,” said Seif Magango.
Free all 9,000 Oromo prisoners of conscience for supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). These prisoners experience extreme gloom and brutal treatment including starvation in the filthy prison cells. It hurts to hear such a shameful and despicable rights violations when a Nobel Peace Winner, Abiy Ahmed, is committing exactly the opposite of the purpose of the Peace Prize. We demand the release of these bright and innocent people.