Several thousand suspected government opponents were detained without charge or trial, including prisoners of conscience: some were reported to have been tortured or to have "disappeared". Over 2,000 others who had been detained in 1991 or 1992 continued to be held without charge or trial: they included both suspected government opponents and officials of the former government suspected of human rights violations. However, over 20,000 other suspected government opponents arrested in 1991 and 1992, and over 1,000 former government officials, were released. Some government opponents were reportedly killed in circumstances suggesting that they had been the victims of extrajudicial executions. The Transitional Government, headed by President Meles Zenawi, extended its rule for a further six months up to early 1994, beyond the two-year transitional period which followed the overthrow of former President Mengistu Haile-Mariam's government in May 1991. Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, proceeded to full independence after a UN-supervised referendum in April (see Eritrea entry). A commission started work on a new Constitution. There was fighting in some Oromo-populated areas between government forces and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which had left the government in June 1992. There were also intercommunal conflicts and violent incidents between government soldiers and alleged opponents in other areas. In June Ethiopia acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (but not its Optional Protocols) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Government opponents with a wide range of political affiliations were arrested. Although over 70 political groups, mostly ethnic-based, were either represented in the Council of Representatives (the interim parliament) or allowed to operate openly, critics of the government were often interrogated by the police, or detained. Many suspected supporters of the OLF and other opposition political groups, including some based abroad, were arrested. Nearly all those arrested for political reasons were detained without charge or trial. Some were taken to court and remanded virtually indefinitely for investigation into alleged criminal offences. Others were provisionally released after periods of up to several months, but many of these detentions appeared to be illegal. In January up to 100 students from Addis Ababa University were arrested and one killed during a demonstration against the UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea, in which the security forces fired on students (see below). There were further arrests at the university in April, when students demonstrated against the authorities' dismissal of certain academic staff and expulsion of student activists. Some of the students were still held without charge or trial at the end of the year. Also in January, several officials of the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO) were arrested for allegedly inciting inter-ethnic violence at a political rally. All denied the offence and were released on bail after a few days. In July Asrat Woldeyes, chairperson of AAPO and a professor of medicine, and Sileshi Mulatu, another AAPO official, were arrested and detained in connection with an AAPO meeting in 1992. Professor Asrat Woldeyes was released on bail six weeks later, but Sileshi Mulatu and four others remained in detention at the end of the year with no date set for their trial. They appeared to be prisoners of conscience. At least 2,000 members of the Oromo ethnic group were detained for suspected links with the OLF. They included farmers in Bale region in the south and Hararghe in the east, teachers in Ambo and Dembi Dollo, and businessmen in Addis Ababa. In October, all 15 staff of the Oromo Relief Association office in Dire Dawa were arrested - most were released after a few days but two were still detained at the end of the year. In many cases, it seemed that Oromo prisoners were arrested solely because they were known to have supported the OLF when it was a legal political organization between May 1991 and June 1992, and had not been involved in subsequent armed opposition. They were all detained without charge or court order; many of them were held in large so-called "re-education" centres for OLF members in Dedessa, Hurso and Agarfa. Many government critics were detained for questioning by the police and security forces but later provisionally released. In most cases, there were no further judicial proceedings but those concerned were subjected to restrictions on their movements. Among these was Professor Mesfin Wolde-Mariam, chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, whose conditions of release prevented him from travelling to the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in June. Ashenafi Abaje, a journalist accused of links with the banned Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP), was arrested in May and released on bail in September without being charged. Fifteen publishers and journalists of newly permitted independent magazines were arrested in October and held for up to a month - two were later rearrested and charged with political offences for which they had not been tried by the end of the year. Yilma Chamola, vice-chairman of the opposition Sidama Liberation Movement (SLM), a southern political group, who was arrested with other SLM officials in Awassa in August, and Makaddin Mohamed Ali, an official of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), who was arrested near Harar in June, remained in detention without charge or trial at the end of the year. In December some opposition exiles were arrested on their return to Ethiopia from the USA, France and Sweden for a Conference on Peace and Reconciliation. Seven were charged with armed rebellion and other political offences related to the activities of the organizations to which they belonged, including the OLF and the US-based Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF). The COEDF denied that it had advocated violence and some of those arrested appeared to be prisoners of conscience. In many cases secrecy surrounded political arrests and details were difficult to obtain. This applied to the reported detentions in early 1993 of several senior military, political and intelligence officials of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), who seemed to have been arrested for opposing President Zenawi's policies. Information was also deficient on reported mass round-ups in early 1993 of government opponents in Gojjam region, where an armed rebel group was active and where there were grievances about regional boundary changes. There were also few available details of large-scale arrests of demonstrators and rioters in Gondar town in September after a church demonstration (see below). Daniel Tessema and five other former army officers, who had been arrested in early 1992 and charged with a plot to overthrow the government, were still detained without trial at the end of the year. Large numbers of political detainees arrested in the previous two years were released. In February and March over 20,000 suspected members of the OLF, including members of militias and civilians, among them children, who had been detained in the months following the OLF's move to armed opposition in June 1992, were released uncharged. In addition, some 1,100 officials of the former government, armed forces and the former ruling Workers Party of Ethiopia (WPE) were provisionally released as a result of habeas corpus applications or on the orders of the Special Prosecutor's Office which had been set up in 1992 to investigate crimes by officials of the former government. Nine hundred armed forces officers captured in Eritrea by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) in May 1991, and handed over to the Ethiopian government in August 1992, were also released. Some 1,500 former government officials remained in detention throughout the year, accused of human rights crimes, war crimes or other unspecified criminal offences. None had been formally charged, and their continuing detention without trial appeared to be illegal. They were allowed regular family visits and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Many government opponents held since 1991 or 1992 remained in detention without charge or trial, without observance of legal formalities or safeguards, and in many cases incommunicado. They included several hundred suspected OLF members held since mid-1992; several members of the EPRP; and Hagos Atsbeha, abducted from Sudan and held incommunicado since 1988 by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), whose members head the present government (see Amnesty International Report 1993). Torture and ill-treatment, particularly of Oromo political detainees, were reported from secret detention centres in many areas, including Addis Ababa. Details were difficult to obtain: victims were reportedly threatened with reprisals if they spoke about their imprisonment. Torture methods included tying the victims' arms together tightly behind their backs with plastic strips, depriving them of food, death threats and mock executions. Torture, including rape of women, was said to be frequently used to punish or deter suspected OLF sympathizers in rural areas where OLF forces were operating, such as Wollega region in the west and Hararghe in the east. Scores of government opponents, particularly suspected OLF members, "disappeared" after being arrested. They were believed to be held in secret security detention centres where torture was reported. Wakuma Soboka, a bank security guard in Addis Ababa, "disappeared" in May after being arrested by police. There was no news either of Yosef Ayele Bati, a teacher and OLF supporter previously tortured and detained for nine years under the Mengistu government, who "disappeared" after being arrested in Addis Ababa in November 1992. Killings of civilians by the security forces which appeared to be extrajudicial executions were reported on several occasions. In January the security forces fired on a peaceful demonstration by students from Addis Ababa University, killing one student. A public inquiry was established, headed by the President of the Supreme Court, but its report had not been made public by the end of the year. Many civilians in Hararghe region suspected of supporting the OLF were reportedly killed by security forces in the second half of 1993. In September the police shot dead 13 people in Gondar during a demonstration against an attempt by the security forces to arrest a dissident Ethiopian Orthodox Church preacher who had criticized the government in a church sermon. The authorities said the shootings were in response to violent opposition but refused to establish an independent inquiry. Amnesty International appealed for the release of prisoners of conscience and urged that all political detainees be either charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried within a reasonable time, or released. Amnesty International welcomed the government's stated commitment to bring to justice those officials of the former government accused of human rights violations, but it was concerned by the long delays in processing the cases of individual detainees and the failure to formally charge and bring to trial those being held. It was concerned too that, if convicted, some might be sentenced to death and executed. Amnesty International called for urgent and impartial investigation of all reports of "disappearances", torture and extrajudicial executions, and for steps to be taken to prevent such violations. Amnesty International representatives visited Ethiopia in July and November and discussed the organization's concerns with government officials and others, including human rights activists. Officials denied that there were any prisoners of conscience or illegally held detainees, or that torture, "disappearances" or extrajudicial executions had occurred.

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