Open Letter to Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, Commissioner of the UNHRC
Subject: UNHRC’s acceptance of Ethiopia’s proposal for a joint investigation of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Tigray
We, three opposition parties in Tigray, have been calling repeatedly for a full, independent and international investigation of the crimes committed in Tigray. The international community too has been calling for the same and the UNHRC has been at the forefront of such calls. We appreciate the UNHRC for its persistent stance regarding the need for a full, independent and international investigation of the crimes in Tigray. We now know that the UNHRC has accepted the call by the Ethiopian government for a joint investigation of the crimes by the UNHRC and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). We are afraid this decision of the UNHRC is detrimental to a full investigation of the crimes in Tigray for the following main reasons.
- The Ethiopian government started the war and allowed the other actors to join hands and do all the horrible crimes together. Thus, we believe the Ethiopian government is the main culprit of all the crimes in Tigray. This government has been refusing to provide access to a full, independent and international investigation despite repeated calls by the international community. As a suspect in the crimes, the Ethiopian government is not supposed to select investigators of the crimes. Thus, the invitation of the UNHRC by the Ethiopian government to investigate the crimes in collaboration with the EHRC; while closing doors to independent international investigators cannot be taken as a genuine initiative.
- The EHRC has demonstrated that it cannot be considered as an able and committed organization to its cause. This commission was very fast to blame the Tigrayans for the May-Kadra massacre, which happened within days at the beginning of the conflict. However, assessments by various relevant bodies show that the May-Kadra incident appears to take a different pattern than the one promoted by the EHRC and the Ethiopian government. Here again the Ethiopian government has refused an independent international investigation into the matter and the EHRC is dragging its feet in investigating May-Kadra itself and other horrible crimes such as the massacre in Aksum. Therefore, we cannot trust the EHRC as an independent investigator of crimes and we believe its role in the joint investigation will be obstruction rather than facilitation of the investigation.
- A lot of media spinning of the Mai Kadra incident was carried out in which the EHRC itself joined in, painting Tigrayans as killers of the Amhara in that town. Staff of the EHRC, including the commissioner, appeared on TV documentaries criminalizing Tigrayans. Although the genocide and ethnic cleansing was preplanned, we believe, the media campaign on the Mai-Kadra massacre greatly contributed to what happened later in Tigray. Thus, we strongly believe that the EHRC has played a role in the crimes that happened in Tigray and the EHRC itself should be a target of a thorough and genuine investigation of the crimes.
- We also have disturbing reports that evidence on the crime scene such as houses, bodies and victim’s belongings have been burnt with the intention of destroying evidence after the EHRC ‘investigation’ of Mai Kadra. The EHRC neither protected the evidence nor reported that they are being destroyed. We, therefore, suspect that the EHRC wanted evidence to be destroyed so that the truth can be hidden and criminalizing the victims shall stand still. Thus, as the Tigrayan saying goes “You cannot look for your lost ox together with the thief who stole it and expect to find it”, we cannot expect a genuine investigation can be carried out by the UNHRC working together with the EHRC.
Your Excellency, Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, we would like to express to you that we strongly demand there should be a full, independent and international investigation into all the horrible crimes committed in Tigray. We also would like to express to you that we regard the UNHRC in high esteem and have a high hope in the investigations that will be carried out by the UNHRC. Thus, we would like to ask this respected organization to distance itself from a joint investigation with the EHRC and continue to insist for a full, independent and international investigation of the crimes committed in Tigray.
National Congress for Greater Tigray
Tigray Independence Party