In the heart of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, near a hotel and an Orthodox Christian cathedral, lies one of the country’s most notorious police stations, the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector, commonly known as Maekelawi.
Many of Ethiopia’s political prisoners—opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, alleged supporters of ethnic insurgencies , and many others—are first taken to Maekelawi (“central” in Amharic), after being arrested. There they are interrogated, and, for many, at Maekelawi they suffer all manner of abuses, including torture.
Police investigators at Maekelawi use coercive methods on detainees amounting to torture or other ill-treatment to extract confessions, statements, and other information from detainees. Detainees are often denied access to lawyers and family members. Depending on their compliance with the demands of investigators, detainees are punished or rewarded with denial or access to water, food, light, and other basic needs.
This report documents human rights abuses, unlawful investigation tactics, and detention conditions in Maekelawi between 2010 and 2013. For the report Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 35 former detainees of Maekelawi and their family members. Although Human Rights Watch was not able to visit Maekelawi, preventing first-hand observation of conditions and interviews with current detainees, researchers cross- checked information provided by former detainees, who were identified through various channels and interviewed individually.