(AFP) ADDIS ABABA — Human Rights Watch on Thursday warned Britain against relying on Ethiopian guarantees that it will not torture suspects deported to the African country.
The two countries signed an agreement in December allowing Ethiopia to obtain custody of its citizens detained in Britain after giving “diplomatic assurances” that they will not be mistreated.
“The UK government should not rely on unreliable ‘diplomatic assurances’ against torture to deport national security suspects to Ethiopia,” the group said in a letter to the British government.
“Ethiopia’s record of torture of security suspects is all too clear. The agreement is itself a tacit admission that torture continues to be a major problem in Ethiopia,” said Tom Porteous, the US-based watchdog’s director in London.
HRW said concerns are “at their gravest” when individuals are detained on suspicion of affiliation with armed opposition, insurgent or terrorist group.
It said it had documented cases in which suspects were subject to repeated kicking and beating with electric cables, rifle butts, and other materials, as well as having bottles tied to their testicles.
It added that it had evidence that women and girls have been raped while being detained in military barracks in Ethiopia’s Somali region, where a secessionist group has waged an armed struggle.
The deal, similar to those signed by Britain with Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, represents an “effort to circumvent the strict ‘no return’ obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights,” it said.
Ethiopian rejected the claims.
“Torture is forbidden by law here. Ethiopia is a country where human rights are respected,” government spokesman Bereket Simon told AFP in Addis Ababa.
“The report is nothing but a political gimmick. It has nothing to do with human rights.”