July 07, 2018 – Ethiopia’s Somali regional government has refuted allegations of systemic torture at Jijiga Central Prison. The denial comes on the heels of an in-depth report from Human Rights Watchdocumenting the scope of torture at Jijiga, also known as Jail Ogaden, in the Somali regional capital.
The HRW report, based on interviews with 70 former prisoners, along with government officials, paints one of the most detailed pictures to date of the pervasive, and often depraved, use of torture in Ethiopian prisons.
Hours before HRW published its findings, Ethiopia’s attorney general, Berhanu Tsegaye, announced that all prison heads in the country had been fired “for failing to discharge their responsibilities and respect prisoners’ human rights,” according to state-owned broadcaster Fana Television.
That move, and a historic admission last month by Ahmed that the government sanctioned torture in violation of its constitution, could lead to a political confrontation between the federal government and the powerful Somali regional leaders.
‘Absolutely no rule of law’
According to HRW, officials have detained thousands of prisoners at Jail Ogaden, most of whom experience routine abuse and neglect. Many of the prisoners have never been convicted of or even charged with a crime, HRW said.
Officials believe that the prisoners either belong to or sympathize with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a prominent opposition group. ONLF has, in years past, fought the Ethiopian Defense Forces, and both groups committed war crimes in 2007 and 2008, according to HRW.
On Thursday, the Ethiopian parliament removed ONLF and two other opposition groups from a list of terrorist organizations.
Abdi Mohamoud Omar, the Somali regional president known as Abdi Illey, oversees the Liyu police, a special force responsible for a range of abuses against Ethiopians, particularly in the Somali region, according to human rights groups.
Abdi Ilexy is a regional warlord. He’s been running the Ogaden region as a warlord, that I can say for sure, and it is hard to dislodge him.
Abdi Illey has overseen various abuses. He’s responsible for the Liyu Police, who engaged in many massacres, some of which have been documented by human rights groups. And he can be prosecuted under Ethiopian law for that.