US official denies torturing suspects in Ethiopia jails

US Assistant Secretary of State
for Human Rights and Labour David
Kramer in Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – The United States denied Tuesday accusations that its officers tortured terror suspects detained in Ethiopian jails after Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion of Somalia.

Rights groups said US and other intelligence services interrogated several people detained by Kenya’s forces on its border with Somalia and transferred to Ethiopia, as they fled Ethiopia’s war with Somali insurgents.

Several detainees, including eight Kenyans released early this month, said they were denied access to legal counsel and their consular representatives as well as tortured by US interrogators.

“The US takes every effort to ensure that any treatment of prisoners is handled in a humane way and any extraditions not be done for people who are subject to torture,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labour David Kramer told journalists in Addis Ababa.

“We stress the importance of transparency and the respect of human rights,” he added.

Addis Ababa has also denied claims it tortured the suspects while in its custody.

Ethiopia has released many of the at least 150 people who were in detention there, rights groups say. They include women and children from more than 18 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Separately, Kramer expressed concern over shrinking freedom in Ethiopia and draft legislation which, if enacted, would severely restrict aid groups’ operations.

The Ethiopian army invaded Somalia in late 2006 to rescue Somalia’s embattled transitional government and oust the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controlled of much of the country’s central and southern regions.

Since then, ICU fighters have waged a deadly insurgency against the Ethiopian and the transitional government forces.

But Ethiopian troops’ retaliations have caused many casualties among Somali civilians.

Since the Ethiopian invasion, about one million Somalis have fled their homes. An estimated 6,500 civilians have been killed.

Aid workers estimate 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. That number is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year if the humanitarian situation does not improve, according to the UN.

In May 2008, Amnesty International accused the Ethiopian troops in Somalia of increasingly resorting to throat-slitting executions, highlighting an “increasing incidence” of gruesome methods by Ethiopian forces that include rape and torture.

Source: Middle East Online

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