Ethiopia arrested thousands of citizens with no face mask in public places

A rights group in Ethiopia are demanding their immediate release 

Ethiopia _ Coroanaviurs

May 13, 2020

Addis Ababa Police Commission announced on Wednesday that it has started “taking measures” against individuals who are not wearing a facemask in public places, and those who are not maintaining social distance.

According to a news update from the commission, it has arrested about 1305 people from about 23 locations in the capital Addis Ababa for what it says is a failure to comply with Coronavirus prevention measures outlined in the state of emergency that Ethiopia declared in April 2020.

Ethiopia’s latest emergency legislation has given law enforcement bodies extra power to enforce prevention measures.

All the places that police patrolled are areas that are known for being crowded under normal circumstances.  Kirkos, Gulele, Addis Ketema, Yeka, Addisu Gebeya, Janmeda, Kazanchis, Piazza, and Giorghis are some of the areas from where police arrested individuals.

And many of these localities are open-air marketplaces – hard to avoid places for millions of people in the city for reasons of economic activity.  315 of those arrested are female while the remaining 990 are males.

What seems to be paradoxical is that Ethiopia has released tens of thousands of prisoners across the country as part of the measure to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic. Rights group question if the approach is productive while condemning arbitrary arrests.

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday that police should immediately stop arbitrary arrests and release those detained.

“…Indeed, the Emergency Regulations impose an obligation to wear face covering in public service areas such as markets, shops, transport services or other public spaces with large number of people where social distancing is not possible. Otherwise, arbitrary arrest of people on the streets is outside the regulation, disproportionate and counter-productive measure which should stop immediately and all those detained should be released immediately,” said in a statement published on social media.  

A parliamentary body has been arranged to oversee the implementation of the five-month-long state of emergency which is portrayed as one of the key components of Ethiopia’s prevention policy. However, it is unclear if that parliamentary body is acting on the issue.

So far, Ethiopia has reported 263 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 5 deaths.

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