Human Rights Watch Oct. 1 called on the Ethiopian government to release rendition victims in custody or prosecute them in an open court. The renditions were the result of the US-backed Ethiopian military intervention in neighboring Somalia in late 2006. The fighting caused thousands to flee across the border into Kenya, which detained at least 150 people from more than 18 countries. In early 2007, Kenyan authorities “renditioned” dozens of these individuals back to Somalia, where they were handed over to the Ethiopian military and interrogated by US and Ethiopian agents.
The governments of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia have all denied illegally transporting and imprisoning people, claiming they have only taken action against legitimate suspects. According to HRW, the rendition victims were denied access to their embassies, their families and international relief organizations. Former prisoners have complained of solitary confinement and accused Ethiopian authorities of torture, including pulling out toenails, holding loaded guns to their heads, the crushing of genitals, and being beaten to the point of unconsciousness.
Human Rights Watch initially raised the Horn of African renditions issue in March 2007 when it claimed that the US, Kenya, and Ethiopia were cooperating with the transitional government of Somalia to detain refugees. Canada, Sweden and Eritrea subsequently pressured Ethiopia to reveal details regarding foreign nationals it has allegedly detained in secret prisons run in collaboration with the FBI and CIA. In August last year Kenyan Muslims in Nairobi protested that suspects detained in Kenya had been flown on secret rendition flights to Ethiopia, where “aggressive interrogation” took place at the hands of US agents. (Jurist, Oct. 2)