Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the police in Ethiopia to account for the whereabouts of Abdi Regassa, a senior member of the opposition political party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – who remains missing after security officers in Addis Ababa broke into his home and arrested him alongside eight other party members on 29 February.
Amnesty said while the other eight party members were released later the same day, Abdi Regassa was not, raising fears he may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and was at risk of torture or other ill-treatment by the Ethiopia police.
The police have denied they are still holding him, according to his lawyer and family members.
Human rights violations and crackdown on opposition figures have continued in Ethiopia under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
“Abdi Regassa’s family and lawyers have spent the last couple of days frantically searching police stations and detention centres across Addis Ababa in an attempt to locate him,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“The police deny that they have him in their custody and yet he was last seen in their custody and there is no evidence that he has been released. This is understandably causing his family considerable anxiety and distress. The authorities must come clean and immediately disclose his whereabouts and allow him access to his family and lawyer.”
According to the human rights organization, in the early hours of 29 February, security officers stormed a guest house in the southern part of Addis Ababa where five senior members of the OLF and four supporters were staying. All nine were arrested and taken to the local police station.
The OLF members were then split into two groups; the first group of six were moved to the Addis Ababa Police Commission and eventually released within 24 hours of arrest.
The second group of three, comprising Abdi Regassa and Mikael Gobena, both members of OLF’s Executive Committee, and Kenessa Ayana, a member of OLF’s Central Committee, were taken to an unmarked unofficial detention compound around the 6 Kilo area in Addis Ababa. While Mikael Gobena and Kenessa Ayana were released within 24 hours of arrest, the police continued to detain Abdi Regassa, the two told Amnesty International.
The police confiscated the mobile phones, driving licenses, passports and bank ATM cards of all the OLF members before releasing them, leaving them stranded.
“The Ethiopian authorities must stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining opposition figures. They must immediately disclose Abdi Regassa’s whereabouts, charge him with a recognisable crime under the law or release him without further delay,” said Seif Magango.