The United Nations has said reports indicate that Ethiopian officials have detained at least 1,000 people after declaring a state of emergency due to a yearlong war with opposition forces from the Tigray region.
The detainees, most of whom were of Tigrayan origin, were arrested in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa as well as in the cities of Gondar, Bahir Dar and other places "on suspicion of being affiliated to or supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)," according to a statement from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"The state of emergency in force in Ethiopia risks compounding an already very serious human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. Its provisions are extremely broad, with vague prohibitions going as far as encompassing 'indirect moral' support for what the government has labeled 'terrorist groups,' " Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the office, said in the statement.
She also called for the immediate release of 10 local U.N. staffers and roughly 34 drivers contracted to work with the organization, noting the poor conditions of their detention including overcrowding at police stations.
Throssell added that the state of emergency "explicitly suspended" judicial review, leaving the government with "sweeping powers of arrest and potentially indefinite administrative detention for the duration of the emergency measure."
She also said that administrative detention should only be used in "exceptional" cases when someone presents "a direct and imperative threat."
Last week, the Ethiopian government warned U.N. and African Union staffers that they would be punished for any laws that they break during the country's ongoing civil war.
"U.N. staff who reside in Ethiopia should respect the law of the country," foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said. "They live in Ethiopia, not in space. Whether it is a U.N. or AU staff member, they shall be held accountable."