Authorities in Somalia over the weekend arrested and deported a former commander of Ethiopia’s notorious Jail Ogaden, located in the eastern Somali regional state.
Reports said Hassan Ismail Ibrahim known by the alias “Hassan Dhere” was captured in the central Somalia town of Goldogob and was handed to Ethiopian authorities in Jigjiga.
Hassan had been on the run since August 2018 when federal forces were deployed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to depose long-serving Somali regional state president Abdi Illey.
Jail Ogaden is a facility where thousands of prisoners were tortured, and abused according to Human Rights Watch investigations through rape, sleep deprivation, and physical assault. Ethiopia closed the facility last year with the promise to transform it into a museum.
Former leader of the state, Abdi Mohamoud Illey is currently in federal custody facing criminal charges after he was deposed.
The new leader, Mustefa Omer, a known human rights activist has since replaced head of the dreaded paramilitary Liyu police and promised wide-ranging rights reforms in a state that was ruled for years under the highhandedness of Illey.
Hassan becomes the second ex-prison commander to be arrested in under a year. The first was Shamaahiye Sheikh Farah [commonly known as Shamaahiye], a former colonel in the controversial Liyu Police, who was said to have presided over some of the worst infractions in the closed facility.
Jijiga Central Prison, commonly known as Jail Ogaden or Jail Ogadeni [Jeel Ogaden in Somali] is in Jijiga, the capital of Somali Region and is Somali Region’s main functioning regional prison.
Estimates of prison population varied widely across time, but it is estimated there was an average of several thousand prisoners at any particular time between 2011-2017.
Within Somali Region, there are many other places of detention in local (kebele), district (woreda) and zonal police stations, EDF military camps, and Liyu police detention facilities.
Jail Ogaden, located near Jijiga University, was built in 2001. The prison expanded in 2011, following the escape of some prisoners partially due to pervasive corruption involving prison guards.
At present the prison has an inner and outer wall and the majority of prisoners are held inside the inner wall in one of 23 cells. Meetings of the prison population are held in an open area in the middle, covered with a tarp.
Civil servants and “high-ranking” prisoners, including at least three former Jail Ogaden prison heads, are housed in more spacious rooms in between the inner and outer walls.
Men and women are segregated in different parts of the prison. Both male and female guards watch over the women’s section.