Cruelty and Denial: Medical Evidence for State-Sponsored Torture in Ethiopia
Washington, DC. June 18, 2012. A recently released Medicine For Peace(MFP) report provides forensic medical evidence that there is widespread and systemic use of torture and human rights abuses to suppress dissent against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
The report, Cruelty and Denial: Medical Evidence for State Sponsored Torture in Ethiopia, is a detailed analysis of the alleged torture history, and the physical and psychological findings from forensic examination of 102 asylum seekers in the United States who presented credible evidence that they were tortured in Ethiopia. The patients were interviewed and examined at the Medicine For Peace Health Center for Victims of Torture in Hyattsville, MD from November 2009 to May 2012 by medical professionals expert in forensic medicine.
“This study is unique because it is the first systematic analysis of a cohort of asylum seekers from Ethiopia, a country whose officials deny that it engages in torture, and cruel and degrading practices,” said Dr. Michael Viola, the Director of Medicine For Peace.
Key findings in the study include:
• Patients were arrested multiple times for political activities protected by the Ethiopian constitution, e.g. being a member of an opposition political party, attending a protest or rally, speaking out against the EPRDF, refusing to join the EPRDF, inquiring about a family member who was arrested, or being a human rights activist.
• Patients were incarcerated (mean duration 6.7 weeks) and allegedly tortured in 44 facilities in 6 Federated regions including Federal prisons, a regional prison, military camps, sub-city and local police stations in Addis Ababa, and elsewhere in the country.
• In addition to beatings with batons, gun butts, and electrical cord, often to the point of unconsciousness, a variety of torture methods were used including falanga (blows to the soles of feet), telephono ( blows to the ears), suffocation, suspension, burning, mock executions, and others methods.
• 40% of women reported rape and sexual assaults in prison. Three pregnant women aborted in prison because of blows to the abdomen. Female patients in the study described being imprisoned with other women who were randomly removed from their cells every night to be raped by prison guards or police.
• The patients in this study were suffering from a variety of emotional and physical symptoms related to being tortured, and many were in critical need of medical and psychological care. 65% of patients had moderate to severe PTSD, and 32% of patients suffered from moderate to severe depression.
“This study confirms the growing body of evidence, mainly based on direct testimony from torture survivors, that torture is widespread, systemic and committed with impunity by Ethiopian Government officials, police, and the military to control opposition to the EPRDF,” stated Dr. Viola. “The arrests and the torture described by our patients were entirely extrajudicial, with no charges being made, often resulting in long detentions, and prisoners denied access to counsel and the courts. “
To download the full MFP Report, please visit www.medicineforpeace.org.
Michael V. Viola,