Britain spends millions on Ethiopian ‘special police’ linked to abuses

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By Sam Marsden | The Guardian :

The Ogaden region, where a government security force known as the “special police” are operating. Photo: ALAMY

Britain is spending millions of pounds from its foreign aid budget on training Ethiopian paramilitaries that have been accused of human rights abuses including summary killings, rape and torture.

A government security force known as the “special police” operating in the eastern Ogaden regionwill be supported as part of a UK-funded “peace and development programme” lasting five yearsand costing up to £15 million.

A leaked Department for International Development document warns of the “reputational risks” ofworking with organisations that are “frequently cited in human rights violation allegations”, TheGuardian reported.

The special police, who are up to 14,000-strong, have led the Ethiopian government’s counterinsurgency campaign in Ogaden, a troubled region largely populated by ethnic Somalis.

However, the campaign group Human Rights Watch has recorded repeated serious allegations ofhuman rights abuses against them.Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, said it was highly concerning that Britain was planning to work with the paramilitary force.

“There is no doubt that the special police have become a significant source of fear in the region,”she told The Guardian.

A Department for International Development spokesman said: “The peace and developmentprogramme will be delivered in partnership with non-governmental organisations and UnitedNations organisations, and no funding will go through the government of Ethiopia.