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Ethiopia: Inquiry Board observed detainees

Inquiry board has observed individuals arrested for violating the State of Emergency order which takes measures to protect the health and well-being of population related to #COVID-19.

The Board observed in person the presence of individuals who are being detained in three schools and are awaiting disciplinary decisions for violating the restrictions set out in the emergency decree. The Board also discussed with police officers and detainees about their treatment.

Chairperson of the board honourable Peteros Woldesenbet make clear the purpose of the field observation and asked the officers of the Sub-city Police Department to provide an explanation for enshrining individual human rights and their treatment.

Bole sub-city police Chief Commander Admassu Ufa said that 48 people were arrested for Smoking shisha(prepared tobacco), Chewing khat and selling alcohol in violation of stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings which are the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus. Among the detainees eight of them are women.

The Chief Commander said, 32 received a court verdict and returned home and the rest are awaiting their ruling.
Police have detained more than 874 people, who should be arrested, but they have already been released by raising awareness of the virus and alerting them that early access to accurate information is appropriate. He said that the detainees were kept in separate rooms, and that their temperatures were regularly monitored by health care workers.

It was also said that since schools are closed, it is appropriate to be kept them in isolation school rooms rather than having people who violate the State of Emergency order stay in regular detention centres.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most unique challenges ever encountered by law enforcement. Although law enforcement and government leaders are under extraordinary pressure, this pandemic provides extraordinary opportunity to reshape law enforcement operations and the relationship with the community.” The Chief Commander told and personal protective equipment for officers are provided, including face masks to wear, but added that there is shortage.

The defendants, for their part, told the board members that they believed they had acted against the State of Emergency order, but they want to know when they’ll get in front of a judge. Whatever else about the criminal process they want gleans the first court appearance.

At the same time, the Board saw 6 individuals arrested for violating the State of Emergency order, and Inspector Berhanu Begna, head of the Criminal Investigation Coordination Unit, told the board that the individuals were arrested while playing card games and chewing khat in group.

356 people have violated the order since its declaration, and 9 of them have been found guilty from 15 investigations, and have been fined 500 to 9,000birr and explained their release. Others are preparing to face court.
In addition, members Board were present at Miserak Gohe Secondary High School and observed individuals arrested for Violation of #COVID-19 Emergency Orders.

Chairperson of the board honourable Peteros Woldesenbet, on the conclusion of the field observation, has appreciated on human rights treatment, physical distancing and provisions access for the arrested persons in all three schools. On the other hand, he noted that there are still limitations in bringing detainees to trial and it is important to remember that the criminal courts have also been open and will continue to be open throughout the crisis.

He noted that the activities of law enforcement are encouraged to make them consistent with public health guidelines to maintain physical distancing, which is essential for the health and safety of the public and of police officers themselves.

The government focused on the need to immediately reduce jail and prison populations, especially since the lack of sufficient medical attention, unsanitary conditions, and overcrowding, among other obstacles, combine to create environments where the corona virus can spread precipitously even though it has issued COVID-19 Emergency Orders. He urges the people to take immediate actions to minimize their risk for infection and the spread of the virus.

By Yared Eshetu
House interpreter

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