Ethiopia releases 2,000 prisoners, promises political dialogue
Ethiopian officials have released 2,000 people detained during recent weeks of violent protests amid the nation’s current state of emergency.
Minister of Defense Siraj Fegessa, speaking at a press briefing on Sunday, declined to say how many people in total had been picked up during mass arrests that followed the fatal violence at the Irreecha festival in Bishoftu and subsequent protests. Siraj deferred the question, saying that an Ethiopian Inquiry Board is responsible for the information.
Siraj said that violence directed at businesses and infrastructure had been quelled, with much of Ethiopian daily life restored to safety and stability. His comments come on the heels of remarks made late last week by State Minister Ambassador Taye Atske-selassie, who promised that Ethiopia was “committed to facilitate an all-inclusive political dialogue aiming at addressing the root causes of people’s grievances,” according to Fana, the Ethiopian news service.
Taye, speaking on the state of emergency, told diplomats attending the Atlantic Council meeting at the Africa Center that the government’s goal to restore peace and security will facilitate that dialogue.
While the prisoner release seems a welcome step forward, human rights groups remain alarmed by provisions of the Ethiopian state of emergency that remain in force until April.
“To some extent, the sweeping provisions effectively codify measures that security forces have been committing unlawfully in response to the protests,” said the nonprofit Humans Right Watch organization in a new legal analysis of Ethiopia’s decree, released on Sunday.
The group calls on Ethiopia to honor its obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, among other legal agreements to which it is a party that protect human rights despite any emergency declaration.
Image: Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs