Ethiopia continues to limit prison access of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), the head of delegation James Reynolds told HornAffairs in an exclusive interview.
The ICRC delegation in Ethiopia is primarily focused on “protecting and assisting people detained, displaced or otherwise affected by armed conflicts.”
In the past three years, ICRC visited about 30-40,000 detainees each year – almost half of the official prison population. ICRC’s regained access to federal prisons in 2013, after an about decade long denial of access by the government.
The Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector, a.k.a. Maekelawi, remains off-limit to the ICRC delegation, however.
Maekelawi, which handles high profile and politically sensitive cases, is infamous for alleged inhumane treatment of detainees. A leaked cable of the US Embassy appears to confirm some of the allegations about Maekelawi.
ICRC is also restricted from monitoring the human rights conditions in the Ethio-Somali Regional State.
The region has been marred by conflict and allegations of rights violations since later part of the last decade. Though the security conditions have improved in recent years, the government continues to limit access to foreigners including ICRC.
ICRC also works on restoring family links, providing physical rehabilitation and in partnership with the Ethiopian Red Cross. ICRC’s report for 2015 claimed that “11,973 free phone calls [have been] provided to refugees and migrant returnees who could exchange family news with their relatives.”
Its achievements in the past year include the provision of “essential household items and shelter material” for 46,400 persons affected by inter-communal clashes and enabling “6,334 persons with physical disabilities accessed a service within 10 assisted physical rehabilitation centers”.
Though ICRC’s ties with Ethiopia stretch back to World War II era, the first ICRC delegation to Ethiopia opened office in Addis Ababa in 1977.
James Reynolds is currently head of the ICRC delegation to Ethiopia.
In his first interview since his appointment to Ethiopia, Mr. Reynolds discussed HornAffairs the access to prisons and related matters with HornAffairs’ Daniel Berhane.