Ethiopia govt’s political turnaround has many unanswered questions – HRW


International rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Ethiopian government has to immediately give clarifications to a bold political announcement made on earlier this week.

According to HRW, whiles the decision to release ‘political prisoners’ and to close down a notorious prison facility, the Maekelawi detention center, is welcome news, there was the need for core clarifications and on timelines on execution of the reforms.

The views were contained in a press release titled ‘Ethiopia to Free Political Prisoners, Close Prison – Important Steps, But More Rights Reforms Needed,’ issued by the group’s Senior Researcher in the Horn of Africa, Felix Horne.

Numerous questions remain regarding timelines for implementation, who qualifies as a ‘political prisoner,’ and how many detainees will be freed.

“While the government did not say how and when (the release and closure) will occur, doing so would be an important step towards ending longstanding political repression and human rights abuse in the country.

“Numerous questions remain regarding timelines for implementation, who qualifies as a ‘political prisoner,’ and how many detainees will be freed,” the statement said.

HRW asked if leading opposition figures – specifically mentioning Bekele Gerba, will be released along with thousand other protesters held across facilities in the country.

“What, if any, conditions will be placed on those released,” the stated quizzed.

Horne said the motives behind the current move remained unclear but that international partners should pile pressure on Ethiopia to make concrete commitments to the announcement of January 3, 2018.

On the Maekelawi center closure, he recalled how a HRW report years back had brought to light issues of torture and mistreatment of detainees held there.

“While Maekelawi’s announced closure is good news, it will mean nothing if prisoners are simply relocated to another facility to face the same abuses,” he added.

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