• Press Release

Allow Ethiopian opposition politician to obtain treatment abroad for torture-sustained injuries

June 30, 2016

The Ethiopian authorities must allow an opposition politician who is now unconscious due to injuries sustained in torture and other ill-treatment to obtain life-saving medical treatment abroad, said Amnesty International in a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Habtamu Ayalew, the former spokesman for the opposition Andenet (Unity) party was arrested on July 8, 2014 and charged with terrorism for allegedly collaborating with the opposition Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government has designated a terrorist group. He was detained at the notorious Maekelawi and Qilinto Prisons, where he was subjected to torture and other ill treatment through denial of access to toilet facilities, a situation that led to him to develop excruciatingly painful hemorrhoids.

“Habtamu has been prevented from leaving the country because the prosecutor has appealed the High Court’s decision that released him from prison. The appeal is currently pending before the Supreme Court,” said Haben Fecadu, Amnesty International’s Campaigner for the Horn of Africa.

“He must be urgently let out of the country on humanitarian grounds, if for nothing else, if his life is to be saved.”

Although easily treatable in the early stages, Ayalew’s hemorrhoids were left to deteriorate to Stage-3 which requires surgery, after his jailers repeatedly denied him access to medical treatment.

“The authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the detention conditions that caused Habtamu’s health to deteriorate so much. They must also prosecute anyone reasonably suspected of personal responsibility for this and related offences, including torture or other acts of ill-treatment, in fair trials,” said Fecadu.

Although the High Court acquitted Habtamu and other defendants of the terrorism Charges on September 20, 2015, he was not released until five months later, by which time his condition had deteriorated further.