Mar 15, 2024

The UNPO submits a report to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to highlight ongoing human rights violations against the Oromo community in Ethiopia.

On February 27th 2024, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) submitted a report to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention raising concerns regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of seven (7) members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) by police, special forces, and various state authorities of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Specifically, we call for the release of Gada Gabisa Abdisa, Kenasa Ayana Alabe, Michael Boran Iticha, Abdi Regassa Kopessa, Gada Oljira Gobana, Qajela Lammi Begna, Hundessa Dawit Abdeta, all currently being held at the Burayu Police Station in Addis Ababa. They have each been kept in custody for 30 months or more with their fundamental rights seriously infringed. 

The reported arrests have taken place against a tense sociopolitical backdrop in Ethiopia. Since November 2015, violent uprisings have taken place in the Oromia region in northern Ethiopia. This has led to the arrest and detention of many perceived opponents of the Ethiopian government. These opponents include members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) group, which has been promoting self-determination for the Oromo people since 1973.

Between February and December 2020, each of the aforementioned individuals was arrested without a warrant on various charges and brought into custody by state authorities. None of them was offered adequate, substantiated explanations as to the reasons for their arrest and they have been repeatedly barred from contacting their families or lawyers. Since their initial arrest, they have undergone several transfers between different prisons and detention centres, without it being possible to always keep track of their movement and confirm their safety. 

Importantly, several district courts as well as the Oromia Supreme Court, Federal Supreme Court, and Oromia Attorney General have waived the charges against each of the seven detainees, ordering their immediate release. However, the police and relevant authorities have blatantly ignored these court orders and have either kept these individuals in custody or re-arrested them shortly after their initial release.

Overall, the UNPO believes that the circumstances of arrest and detention of the seven individuals referred to throughout this submission violate several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as is further evidenced in the information provided below.

Accordingly, the UNPO’s appeal to the WGAD is to step in and make appropriate recommendations to the Ethiopian Government in order to:

  • Put an immediate end to the arbitrary detention of Gada Gabisa Abdisa, Kenasa Ayana Alabe, Michael Boran Iticha, Abdi Regassa Kopessa, Gada Oljira Gobana, Qajela Lammi Begna, Hundessa Dawit Abdeta, and all political opponents held without due process or adequate justification.
  • Ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of the aforementioned persons and take appropriate measures to hold accountable those responsible for this repeated violation of the detainees’ rights. 
  • Accord the victims an enforceable right to compensation as well as other applicable reparations in accordance with international law.
  • Bring Ethiopia’s laws, particularly those regarding the legal conditions of arrests, into conformity with the country’s commitments under international human rights law.
  • Take appropriate political, practical, and legal measures to prevent any future arbitrary arrests or detention of political opponents. For example, create an independent mechanism to monitor prisons and detention centres or makeshift prisons, to prevent the ill-treatment and torture of imprisoned individuals.
  • Increase and actively promote awareness and understanding of international human rights law standards relating to detention, arrest, and prison conditions, among all security forces in Ethiopia.
  • Take appropriate and swift measures to ensure more transparent and direct access to information concerning detainees.

We look forward to the consideration of our recommendations by the United Nations Working Group, recognising the importance of addressing the serious issue of intimidation and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Ethiopia and around the world. The UNPO remains committed to our efforts to raise awareness of the discrimination facing minoritised communities and advocate for their rights at the international level.



Photo by Nemuel Sereti