Ethiopia has for the last few years seen some of the worst human rights violations in human history. The war on Tigray, which started in November 2020, alone has led to the deaths of close to a million people (800 000 according to European Union’s estimates), the systematic rape and sexual abuses of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, the ethnic cleansing of entire sub-regions, and the displacement and deliberate starvation of millions of people in Tigray.
While the United Nations Commission for Human Rights established a team of experts in 2021 to investigate the crimes, the team is yet to produce any meaningful report commensurate with the scale and depth of human rights violations that took place during the period of the Tigray war. Its investigation has been limited to remote work due to the Ethiopian government’s denial of access to the ground.
Since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in November 2022, but also prior to that, the Ethiopian regime has been on a diplomatic campaign to end the mandate of the UN investigation commission. On several occasions, the government has tried to block the commission’s budget and end its mandate. Indeed, it appears that the regime has succeeded in cajoling the European Union to fall in line.
We plead with you to vote for the extension of the term of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) and support independent investigation into the human rights violations in Tigray and the rest of the country. We are deeply concerned that the Ethiopian regime may be able to end the mandate of the ICHREE as false promises by the regime about “transitional justice” seem to be gaining acceptance without serious scrutiny by the international community.
We would like you to note the following among the several reasons for the extension of the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.
First, the attempt to end the term of an independent investigation by the regime is clear evidence that the regime has a lot to hide. This should not by any measure be acceptable.
Second, the promise of a domestic “transitional justice” mechanism is unrealistic for multiple reasons. It is not difficult to see the irony in the very regime that organised and carried out mass violence and that continues to uses siege and deliberate starvation of millions of people claiming to provide justice to its own victims and to hold itself accountable for crimes that could amount to genocide and crimes against humanity. Moreover, it is unclear how a domestic mechanism, regardless of how strong and impartial it may be, can hold some of the biggest perpetrators beyond its jurisdiction. A case in point is the Eritrean forces who have been credibly accused of massacres, use of rape and sexual violence, large scale looting and systematic destruction of civilian infrastructures in Tigray, among others. There is a clear need for the establishment and strengthening of an international independent investigation and justice mechanism with a proper jurisdiction and mandate to deal with what is going on in Tigray and across the rest of the country.
Third, despite the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement in November last year, the human rights and humanitarian situation in Tigray remains as dire. More than a million Tigrayans remain in displacement camps across the region and in war-torn Sudan as their homes are still occupied by the same forces that forced them to flee and who carried out gruesome ethnic cleansing campaigns which they continue to this day. If the Ethiopian government was serious about its promises of justice, the violence on Tigrayans should have ended after the signing of the peace agreement 11 months ago.
Fourth, it is worth noting that the International Commission for Human Rights and Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) currently stands as the sole remaining international investigative body in the wake of recent developments. The African Union, facing pressure from the Ethiopian government, discreetly shelved its inquiry into human rights violations during the Tigray war which it had established in 2021. Consequently, should the mandate of ICHREE also be terminated, there is a grave concern that human rights abuses and criminal activities may be permitted to persist without adequate scrutiny or accountability.
We therefore join the many civil society and human rights organisations in calling on you to lend your support to the ICHREE and vote for the extension of its term. Crimes at the scale we have witnessed in Ethiopia over the last three years should be of a serious priority to the international community.