Human Rights

Ethiopian Aid Exposed: Voices of the tortured

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The Bureau has spoken to many in Ethiopia who claim to have been arrested or tortured by the Ethiopian authorities.

* All names have been changed to protect identities.

The former businessman
A former businessman described how he was dragged from his home at midnight and imprisoned for three years, first in Gode then in the Jijiga region.

He was kept in a cell with 67 others. There was no sanitation. The prisoners were forced to defecate in plastic cups and he soon became very ill.


Interrogation starts with beating, they would tie your hands and feet with iron and hang you upside down. They immerse you in water, they would use electric shocks. They stuffed your mouth so no one can hear you scream.
Daniel’

‘Truly the treatment was very evil. They would take us out of our cells at night and start interrogating and torturing us, asking us questions that we don’t know how to answer.

‘I was badly beaten. I still have the wounds and have burning sensation in my legs’ veins and all my muscles ache.’

Sometimes they would tie him up and force him into an airless hole in the ground. They would also threaten to throw him into another hole ‘used for killing people’.

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The former soldier
‘Daniel’ used to be a captain in the Ethiopian army, until he was arrested, held for 2 months in a local jail, then transferred to the country’s notorious police investigation centre at Maikelawi.

He described how torture was routinely used in the institution to get forced confessions. Often the men weren’t even told of what crime they stood accused.

‘Interrogation starts with beating, they would tie your hands and feet with iron and hang you upside down. They immerse you in water, they would use electric shocks. They stuffed your mouth so no one can hear you scream.’

‘In general there were about 50 people at the prison. Each person suffered horrific injuries as a result of the torture. Some had lost the use of their hand, some had lost their nails. There was a man who was hanged by his hand for over 19 hours.’

The grandmother
A 55-year-old grandmother said she was among more than 100 civilians seized from her village by government forces.  Some were killed, including her son, others were taken to jail.

She described how she was still deep in shock over the death of her son when she was pulled from among the other prisoners and thrown into a pit full of snakes.

‘They raped me in a room, one of them was standing on my mouth, and one tied my hand, they were taking turns, I fainted during this.
‘Desta’

She was left there over night and by the morning had been bitten. Her condition was so bad that when her captors saw her, they thought she was dead and took her out to be buried. When they realised she was still alive they threw her back into the pit.

But, she says, ‘the snake was the easy part because I was raped’ by ‘a queue’ of soldiers.

‘They raped me in a room, one of them was standing on my mouth, and one tied my hand, they were taking turns, I fainted during this.’

As she was being raped she was beaten with a piece of metal. But the soldiers didn’t think the metal was doing enough damage, so they began to use a bayonet.

The 40-year-old man
One man said he was arrested from his home at one o’clock in the morning and taken to a military camp in Gode. The arrest happened four years ago, but he can still point to the scars from what happened to him in custody.

‘I was tied with an electric wire around my chest and leg and beaten until I became unconscious. I regained conscious in the morning at 10am.’

He was held for seven months, during which time he was kept outside, threatened with dogs and tortured. He said he was given sewage water to drink and was forced to compete with the dogs for food.


‘In the beginning I use to bleed during torture but after a while I had no blood left to bleed only saliva was pouring out of my wounds. When the tied my hands so badly my fingers was swollen.’
‘Hakim’

‘They would rape the women. I am a man, I was tortured.

‘They used to beat me with a metal stick similar to the once used for buildings, they also used the back of the gun to hit me, also kicking me with their boots on.

‘I became so weak, one kick was enough to send me flying like a football.

‘In the beginning I use to bleed during torture but after a while I had no blood left to bleed only saliva was pouring out of my wounds. When they tied my hands so badly my fingers were swollen.’

‘One night it started raining heavily and all the security guards started running for shelter and I then found a hole in the security fence and gone through it, the fence surrounded the outdoor camp, I then started running, I was not released, I escaped.’

He was never told why he was arrested.

The pregnant woman
A woman described how she was eight months pregnant when government forces arrested her, then raped and beat her until she lost her baby.

She described being taken to a shack, usually used as a resting place for a senior soldier, where she was brutally attacked.

A man jumped on her stomach and she was hit with the butt of a rifle until they killed her unborn child. She was raped until she lost consciousness.

The woman described seeing a man who was also being held by the government forces who had been tortured so badly ‘his tongue and eyes were out’.

‘And also a girl was in with me I think she was about 16 years old, she was also beaten, raped and sliced and she was in a coma and could not talk.

‘Why is the world keeping quiet about what is happening in Ogaden? Why is the world giving more money to the Ethiopian government. Is it to kill us?


A man jumped on her stomach and she was hit with the butt of a rifle until they killed her unborn child. She was raped until she lost consciousness
.

The young mother
A 30-year-old woman was sleeping in the same room as her mother, brother and two-day old child, when government forces raided their home.

They killed her brother, dragged her from her new-born baby and took her to jail. She was held for two-and-a-half years, during which time she was repeatedly raped.

‘It didn’t make no difference if it was day or night they did what they want to us without fear of anyone.

‘How could I fight back? I was very weak and surrounded by hundreds of men all armed.

‘I gave up on living, I thought they were going to kill me, you worry about rape when you have hope to live on, but I didn’t have that hope.’

The woman told the Bureau she was held alongside some 50 other women. They were all subjected to the same brutality, some of them are still in captivity.

Eventually, after she became desperately ill and convinced her captors to bring her to get medicine, she managed to escape.