Ethiopian Attorney General Accuses Regional Governments of Ignoring Rule of Law

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The Ethiopian Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said his office has faced difficulties bringing more than 1600 instigators of violence before justice due to lack of cooperation from regional governments and city administrations.

While presenting the half-year performance report to the House of People’s Representatives, Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said his office has managed to bring about 1400 suspects before justice out of over 3000 individuals who were involved in the violence that occurred last year and in the previous years.

He said more than 1600 individuals who were allegedly involved in the killing and wounding of citizens in Benishagul-Gumuz, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) are still at large.

Of the total suspects who are still at large, 827 are believed to be hidden in Benishangul-Gumuz regional state, 655 in SNNPR, 50 in Amhara, four in Tigray, 33 in Somali regional states and nine in Addis Ababa.

The attorney general said federal police have failed to track down the suspects due to uncooperative nature of regional governments which rather were engaged in denying access to their territories or hiding the suspects.

Berhanu said several members of regional governments were involved directly or indirectly and hence they don’t want to expose or hand over the suspects, creating hurdles for the police while trying to bring the perpetrators before justice.

According to the attorney general, limitations in the use of modern technologies among the police have also affected the effectiveness of pursuing the suspects.

The Attorney General said the nation has witnessed increased crimes against humanity due to the unfolding violence orchestrated by armed groups in various parts of the country.

The Attorney General called for the unwavering support of lawmakers to get rid of obstructions in a few regional states with regard to maintaining the rule of law.

He further said arms trafficking, money laundering and dissemination of fake news and hate speech have contributed negatively the stability of the country.

Asked about the handling of detainees, the Attorney General replied: “No detainees are tortured or kept in solitary confinement. We undertake regular and random inspections and make sure that all correctional facilities are available.”

With regard to the abducted ethnic Amhara university students in Oromia state, the attorney general said the government has established an independent body which will probe the issue, about kidnappers and on how the hostages will be freed at the earliest time possible.

It must be noted that the federal government has been giving inconsistent statements regarding the university students taken hostage by Oromo militants since early December 2019. Some officials denied the incident; others acknowledged hostages were taken but said they were freed. This is yet another explanation from a member of the federal government.

The lawlessness Ethiopia is facing currently centers mostly in and around Oromia. Although there are some incidents in other parts of the country, the more serious ones, such as armed rebellion, bank robberies, killings, and abductions, are believed by many to mostly originate from Oromia.

Some blame the federal government, including the Attorney-General’s office, for failing to enforce the rule of law against these law-breakers early, before they established roots.