The mission falls within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to monitor prisons and other places of detention in Member States of the African Union and make appropriate recommendations on how to enhance the rights of persons deprived of their liberty.
(i) Recommendations to the Government of Ethiopia
There is a general expression of good political will in government, at both federal and regional level, to improve the conditions of persons deprived of their liberty. This is manifested in the development of government policies and engagement of donors in promoting the welfare of prisoners. The African Commission would like to encourage government to continue on this footing and in particular, to:
- increase the budget allocation to prisons to ensure that prisoners are able to be provided with the basic necessities such as blankets, mattresses, soaps and other provisions for hygiene;
- ensure that prisons are regularly inspected by government officials and independent bodies such as NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions or Ombudsmen;
- Develop a proper curriculum for the training of prison staff. This curriculum should include basic human rights, international norms on the treatment of offenders etc. Police officers recruited to guard prisoners should also undergo specific training besides the police training. The government might want to a seek assistance from the ICRC, Penal Reform International and UN Agencies which have sufficient experience in curriculum development and training for prison officials;
- Tackle the problem of overcrowding, government should explore the possibility of encouraging small claims courts or courts for petty crimes. Alternative sentences to incarceration such as community service should also be explored and encouraged. This will go a long way to decongesting the prisons and not disrupt the social lives of those who commit minor offences;
- Efforts should also be made to separate convicted criminals from suspects. Urgent measures should also be taken to separate juveniles from adults. Special facilities should be established in all regions to take care of juveniles at odds with the law. Incarceration is not the best option for juveniles especially in prisons where they do not continue with their education. Therefore, borstal institutions and reformation centres should be established in all the regions. Juvenile courts should also be established in the regions;
- Steps should be taken to expedite investigations and prosecution of cases in order to ensure justice. The speedier the trial process, the lesser will be the burden on the state because when more detainees are released the number of inmates to be cared for by the state is reduced. The Government should determine the body with the constitutional mandated to try the Gambella detainees as the judicial ping-pong regarding their trial is delaying justice, and justice delayed is justice denied.
- The government should permit prison authorities to use proceeds from prison farms and other income generating activities to improve the welfare of prisoners rather than send the money to government coffers. However, appropriate accounting procedures should be put in place to ensure that the money is not misused by the authorities;
- Expectant and nursing mothers including elderly people of more than seventy years old should not be sent to prison;
- Urgent efforts should be made to erase the discrimination of women especially in the process of rehabilitation. Vocational training facilities should be established for both men and women and where there isn’t enough space to establish separate facilities; both men and women should be trained in shifts;
- The procedure for granting pardon and clemency should be simplified and explained to both the prison staff and prisoners;
- Urgent measures should be taken to dispose of the cases of the former Dergue officials and the government should ensure that they are tried under internationally recognised fair trial procedures. Political prisoners should be released and/or granted pardon.
- Government should encourage periodic inter-regional staff exchanges and organise workshops to train prison officials on latest prison policies and management techniques. If this workshop is organised at national level, efforts should be made to replicate the same at regional level;
- The government should ensure that persons detained in police stations are held under humane conditions. Reasonable allocations should therefore be made for the upkeep of such persons until they are transferred to prison;
- The government should organise a national conference involving all the stake holders in the criminal justice system – the police, the prosecutors, the prison officials and the judiciary. NGOs and other members of civil society working in this sector should also be involved in the conference;
- The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia should submit its initial report in conformity with Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
- The Government should also report on the extent to which it has implemented the above recommendations.
- Prisoners should be provided with uniforms.
(ii) Recommendations to civil society
- Members of civil society, especially NGOs should constantly visit prisons and other places of detention to ensure that the government is meeting its domestic as well as international human rights obligations towards persons deprived of their liberty;
- Civil society and NGOs in particular should monitor government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, including monitoring implementation of these recommendations;
- NGOs should encourage short courses and workshops for prison officials and bring to their attention best practices in prison management from other penal systems in Africa and around the world;
- NGOs should also support the efforts of government by assisting in promoting the welfare of prisoners – provision of blankets, soaps, and other basic facilities.
(iii) Recommendations to prison authorities
- Prison officials should be more involved in monitoring the welfare of prisoners and not leave matters to the committees. Rehabilitation and effective reintegration should be the cardinal role of any prison. The role of a prison official must be to ensure that prisoners released have been rehabilitated enough to be integrated into society. The official’s role is not limited to ensuring the prisoner does not escape;
- Complaints of abuse should be investigated and dealt with so as not to encourage impunity;
- Prison authorities, the police and the judiciary should meet regularly to discuss ways of enhancing the criminal justice system;
- Sick prisoners should be given complete and urgent treatment.
(iv) Recommendations to donors and the international community
- The donor and international community should continue their support to the prison sector in Ethiopia. Emphasis should be placed on staff training, curriculum development and the establishment of programmes that would emphasise prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society;
- The donor community should also encourage exchange programmes or study tours for prison officials;
- The donor community should support government’s efforts in research on areas such as alternative forms of punishment and community service programmes, etc.