Ethiopia continues to carry out arbitrary detentions against dozens of ethnic Tigrayans in the country's capital of Addis Ababa and elsewhere since rebels retook control of the war-hit Tigray region's capital last month, Amnesty International said Friday.
Those detained have included activists and journalists, and some have been beaten and transported hundreds of kilometers from the capital, Amnesty said. The total number is likely to be in the hundreds, with the whereabouts of many are unknown, Amnesty said.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.
The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory in late November after federal troops took the regional capital Mekele, but fighting continued and TPLF leaders remained on the run. In late June the conflict took a stunning turn when pro-TPLF fighters reclaimed Mekele and Abiy declared a cease-fire.
The recent arrests of Tigrayans outside Tigray began after that, Amnesty said.
"Former detainees told us that police stations are filled with people speaking Tigrinya, and that authorities had conducted sweeping mass arrests of Tigrayans," said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty's East and Southern Africa director.
The arrests should stop and all detainees should be "promptly charged with internationally recognized crimes and given fair trials, or immediately and unconditionally released," Muchena said.
Abiy's government has previously denied engaging in ethnically motivated arrests. The federal police and attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for one detainee, who has since been released on bail, told Amnesty that his client had been accused of having links to the TPLF, which the government considers a terrorist group.
"They kept us in the open air and it was raining the whole night. We also stayed there the next day on Saturday. ... We were 26 Tigrayans arrested in the station that day," the man said. Of those, seven were transported 240 kilometers (150 miles) east, to the Awash Arba area of Ethiopia's Afar region, he said.
On Thursday the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a state-affiliated but independent body, said it was also monitoring reports of arbitrary arrests, business closures and "other types of harassment targeting ethnic Tigrayans."
The EHRC and rights groups have similarly voiced concern about previous rounds of such arrests going back to the beginning of the war.