What About Tigray? Jan Nyssen Reacts to Ghent University’s plans to end  collaborations with Israeli universities and research institutions



Ghent University Rector, Rik Van de Walle, announces that Ghent university is to end institutional collaboration with Israeli universities and research institutions. The Rector says this is on the basis of advice by Committee on Human Rights Policy and Dual Use Research (CHRPDUR) of Ghent University and it is related to violations of human rights and the Israeli institutions involvement in them in relation to Palestine.

Ethiopian universities with whom Ghent University has an institutional relationship have been heavily involved in the Tigray War and in blatant violations of human rights. As this database shows, “Ethiopian universities have provided financial and material support to the Ethiopian army and allied forces, practiced discrimination of their students and staff members of Tigrayan origin, including harassment and limitation of academic freedom”. The Ethiopian  Ministry of Science and Higher Education is also involved in this.

Despite this clear and blatant human rights violations and involvement in a genocidal war by Ethiopian universities, Ghent University didn’t discontinue its relationship with them. If it is about human rights, then one would expect Ghent university to do that earlier, and even if a bit late, now.

Professor Jan Nyssen has been writing and reminding the university to reconsider its relations with Ethiopian universities in light of their involvement in the Tigray War, but to no avail. Upon seeing the university’s plan to end relationships with Israeli universities and research institutions on the basis of involvement human rights violations, Jan Nyssen reminds the university about the Ethiopian universities again. Below is Jan Nyssen reaction to the rector.

Dear Rector,

Beste Rik,

Besides the Middle East, you have not done such a thorough screening for other universities in the world in a similar situation. Remember Ethiopia vs Tigray? Our partner universities Bahir Dar, Gondar, Ambo, Addis Ababa Universities were all involved in the genocidal war on Tigray. By concept and in practice, with intellectual and material support. I have signalled this to you since early 2021. Why have you been looking away from such Ethiopian universities that just craved to support the war on Tigray, where the number or civilian victims has been an order of magnitude larger than in Gaza? I would appreciate if you could cut ties with those universities as well. Please explain.


Dear colleagues and students

The Committee on Human Rights Policy and Dual Use Research (CHRPDUR) of Ghent University met again yesterday for an evaluation of the ongoing collaborations with Israeli partners. For each of the academic partners, the CHRPDUR examined whether there is involvement in human rights violations. The CHRPDUR then provided me with its advice regarding these collaborations.

In addition to the collaborations with the three Israeli universities and research institutions for which it was already decided two weeks ago that the necessary steps will be taken to discontinue them, yesterday the CHRPDUR also recommended that the collaborations with four other universities and one research institution should be discontinued.

I have decided to follow this advice in its entirety. This implies that Ghent University intends to discontinue all ongoing institutional collaborations with Israeli universities and research institutions. The necessary steps will be taken within the consortia to explore whether cooperation with the Israeli partners involved can be discontinued. If this is not the case, Ghent University should take the necessary steps to withdraw from the projects itself. Obviously, this will be done with the utmost care for the researchers and promoters involved, while respecting contractual obligations.

There are (potential) partners for whom the CHRPDUR formulated a positive advice in the past but with whom no cooperation is currently ongoing. Should a new collaboration with one of those partners be considered, the CHRPDUR will re-screen that partner. Only with a positive outcome of that new screening will cooperation be allowed to be initiated.

In addition to universities and research institutions, Ghent University is a partner in ongoing collaborations involving Israeli companies or other non-academic partners. The CHRPDUR also re-evaluated these collaborations. Where the Israeli partner was found to be intertwined with the government, the CHRPDUR recommends taking the necessary steps to end the collaboration.

Where the CHRPDUR found no involvement in serious human rights violations, the collaboration can continue. In one case, the CHRPDUR will conduct additional research into the Israeli partner’s possible entanglement with the government.

I also follow these advices in full.

Finally, the CHRPDUR notes that the participation of countries in European research programmes is grounded in the idea that participating member states respect and protect human rights, as mentioned, inter alia, in the cooperation agreement between the European Union and Israel. Given the scale, duration and nature of the human rights violations by the Israeli government, the CHRPDUR recommends that a plea be made through the appropriate channels to suspend Israel’s participation in European research and education programmes. The CHRPDUR believes that Ghent University, along with other universities at home and abroad, could take a leading role in this. This too I concur.

I wish to explicitly express my appreciation and gratitude for the work done by the members of the Committee on Human Rights Policy and Dual Use Research.

Best regards

Rik Van de Walle

See also

Ethiopian universities have infringed on human rights …

Ethiopian universities have infringed on human rights during the Tigray war

List of Ethiopian Universities Supporting the War on Tigray and Their Types of Support

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