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Human Rights

As fighting continues to rage in Somalia, accusations have emerged that Ethiopia is running Guantánamo Bay-like jails where dozens of men, women and children have been held without trial for months. The Ethiopian authorities have admitted to detaining 41 ‘suspected terrorists’ from 17 countries. They defend their actions, claiming this is part of the ‘war on terror’.

At least 19 are reportedly women and 15 are children. Most of them were arrested on the Kenyan border, fleeing fighting between Ethiopian troops, forces of the interim Somali Government and the militias of the Somalian Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The last are accused of having ties with al-Qaeda. In recent years, Ethiopia has been a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, which has been trying to establish bases in this part of Africa. It is reported that CIA and FBI agents were allowed access to the detainees.

According to one source, Ethiopia has secret jails in three locations: Addis Ababa; an Ethiopian air base 37 miles east of the capital; and the far eastern desert close to the Somali border. Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton, an expert on counter-terrorism, has accused the US of being a ‘ringleader’ in a ‘decentralized, outsourced Guantánamo’.

New Internationalist issue 402 magazine cover This article is from the July 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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