Ethiopia: Prisoner speaks of abuse, torture by virtue of ethnic background and gender

Nigist Yirga

ESAT News (July 18, 2017)

A prisoner by the name Nigist Yirga, who was the poster child of the anti-government protest in the Amhara region last summer, spoke of torture and abuse at the hands of her captors in an Ethiopian prison.

Nigist Yirga appeared before the court in Addis Ababa today but regime prosecutors demand, for the fifth time, more time to put together their witnesses. Nigist told the court that she had committed no crime and  prosecutors could not bring any evidence to prove their charges.

Nigist was arrested in September 2016 charged with “terrorism and taking part in a terrorist organization.” She was then taken to the Central Investigation Bureau (Ma’ekelawi), a compound in Addis Ababa where she said male interrogators made her stand before them naked and made fun of her body, according to a document recently compiled by the Ethiopian Human Rights Project, an organization based in D.C. that documents cases of Ethiopian prisoners.

She told the court today that she was beaten severely at the Central Investigation Bureau, where political prisoners and journalists face torture. According to an account documented by the EHRP, interrogators pulled out her nails, she was held incommunicado for days and her parents and family were denied visitations.

Nigist’s photo last July as she took part at the protest in Gondar went viral on the Ethiopian social media, wearing a tees with a portrait of Col. Demeke Zewdu, the leader of the resistance in Gondar and the Amhara region, who is still in jail in Gondar.

The protest in the Amhara region last summer saw the death of at least 200 protesters in Bahir Dar and Gondar while tens of thousands of youth have been detained. The protest in the Amhara region followed a similar anti-government protest in the Oromo region where security forces killed at least 1,500 while tens of thousands of others remain detained.