21st October 2018
Arbitrary Detention of Activists Signals Prevailing Rights Violations
On October 16, 2018, Ethiopian police arrested and held in custody Henok Aklilu, a young attorney and known human rights defender, and his friend activist Michael Melak. They were brought before a judge in the Federal Criminal First Instance Court at Arada Criminal Bench the following day and accused of organising and inciting instability, opposing Addis Ababa’s administration, particularly the mayor and attending meetings and training sessions at the Embassy of the State of Palestine. This includes standing in solitary with Palestine and Palestinians.
The court has granted a seven day remand but the two were released on October 20, 2018. Michael Melak and Henok Aklilu were denied visits by friends and family and reported being subjected to mistreatment.
On the day of their court appearance, over one thousand youth from Addis Ababa were released. They had been rounded up between September 15 and 22 and taken to Tolay military camp for indoctrination and “retraining.”
The facts known publicly from sources and social media corroborate that there was indeed discussion to form an association.
AHRE is concerned with growing harassment and intimidation reported against activists in Addis Ababa by security forces. Activists in Addis Ababa report receiving phone calls instructing them to appear at the station where they are warned under risk of arrest to stop opposing the takeover of land and building structures by unidentified groups. five individuals were arrested at Kirkos Police Station and released right after such warning on October 19, 2018.
Recalling the Ethiopian leadership’s stated commitment to put the country on a reform path where human rights violations, including the denial of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, would no longer prevail, we call on authorities to cease the practice of harassing human rights defenders and ensure that due process is respected. Authorities should hold those who commit human rights violations accountable.
“It is impossible to reconcile the promise of respect for human rights with arbitrary arrests, as well as arrests of human rights defenders for charges whose only apparent purpose would be to impede their freedom of association and assembly”, Said Mr. Yared Hailemariam, Executive Director of Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia. “The government’s stated promise of due process cannot prevail in the presence of such arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation.”