NEWS ANALYSIS: FRESH WAVE OF ARBITRARY ARREST OF TIGRAYANS IN ADDIS ABEBA; RIGHTS COMMISSION SAYS IT IS MONITORING THE SITUATION, FED. POLICE DENY ARRESTS TARGET TIGRAYANS
Addis Abeba, July 05/2021 – Reports are surfacing to the arbitrary arrest and rounding up of ethnic Tigrayans residing in Addis Abeba by police along with non-uniformed security forces. Addis Standard received reports indicating that these arrests are taking place in different locations around the capital.
An eyewitness who wants to remain anonymous in fear of reprisal told Addis Standard that Addis Abeba police accompanied by men wearing civilian clothes appeared in Summit, a neighborhood with a huge presence of Tigrinya speaking community, and started to check for IDs and conduct body searches checking on what is on them. The eyewitness said that the police took people who didn’t have their IDs on them and sarcastically made inappropriate remarks and asked those being checked, “Are you a junta?”
Another eyewitness who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal detailed for Addis Standard similar incidents and said, “It was a mix of Addis Abeba police and Federal police personnels.” Addis Standard learned from the same source who was previously arrested that there was physical abuse of detainees at the police station he was held at.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also said that it is monitoring reports of arrests of media personnel in Addis Abeba as well as residents of Tigray origin suspected of connection with the ongoing situation in the region and warned, “Such measures could aggravate the public‘s concerns on the risk of ethnic profiling.” Addis Standard contacted the senior media advisor at the rights commission, Aaron Maasho who on his part said that no further information is available but added, “Our team is monitoring the situation closely.”
The wife of the Awlo Media cameraman Muse Hadera who was arrested on Friday, July 02, 2021 said that she doesn’t know his whereabouts and was told when she went to the federal police with his lawyer that he was freed. Mesi told Addis Standard, “I know that he wasn’t released and is held somewhere. We just want to know what his charges are as we are still not clear on them. Also we want to make sure that he was not arrested for his identity and we can only understand by having answers as to his whereabouts and his charges.”
This fresh wave of arbitrary arrests coincides with the arrest of at least 12 journalists at two online media platforms. The lawyer, Tadele Gebre, told Addis Standard that the 10 journalists, a cameraman alongside Five members of the Awlo media staff, were arrested by federal police. Tadele also disclosed that Two journalists, Abebe Bayu and Yayesew Shimeles from Ethio-Forum, a Youtube based news outlet were also arrested. At the time the Federal police commission said their arrests were due to their affiliation with a terrorist group which is banned by the parliament. It also comes in the backdrop of an earlier wave of arrests that swapped returnees from the Middle East earlier in May, 2021.
Addis Standard also contacted both the spokesperson of the Addis Abeba Police commission and the spokesperson of the Federal police commission to verify claims made by eyewitnesses and concerned family members. While Fasika Fanta, Addis Abeba police commission spokesperson denied having any knowledge of the arrests, the spokesperson for the federal police commission said, “The federal police commission did not and does not arrest citizens based on their identity unless otherwise they are involved in criminal acts,” he added, “ Police can arrest every one without any discrimination, when suspected with criminal act.” AS