by Alice Pistolesi
No postponement: The UN will no longer investigate human rights violations in Ethiopia. After no Country came forward to request an extension, the UN-backed investigation will be disbanded when its mandate expires at the end of October. On Tuesday 3 October, experts from the Independent International Commission again asked the Human Rights Council in Geneva to extend the investigation, pointing out that the atrocities in Tigray did not stop with the ceasefire established in November 2022.
UN experts said Eritrean troops allied to the Ethiopian army are still raping women and subjecting them to sexual slavery, citing reports of extrajudicial killings and mass arrests in the ongoing fighting in the Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second most populous. “We are seriously concerned about the situation in Ethiopia and the risk of future atrocities,” said Mohamed Chande Othman, chairman of the Commission. According to the Commission, “the latest findings are based on an assessment of risk factors for atrocities, which are the most serious crimes against humanity”. The Commission’s report found that all eight risk factors are now present in Ethiopia. “There is a real and immediate risk that the situation will deteriorate further and it is incumbent on the international community to ensure that investigations continue so that human rights violations can be addressed and the worst tragedies avoided,” said Steven Ratner, one of the independent experts.
The Ethiopian State has long opposed the Commission, preventing experts from carrying out investigations and forcing them to work remotely from an office in Uganda. The Commission was established in December 2021, after a joint report by the UN and the Ethiopian State Human Rights Commission recommended further independent investigations into abuses. Since then, two comprehensive reports have been published, concluding that all sides committed abuses and war crimes during the Tigray war. The first report accused the Ethiopian Government of using starvation as a weapon of war by restricting aid access to the region while the rebels controlled it. In their second report, published in September, the Commission’s experts said the justice process Ethiopia had initiated fell ‘far short’ of African and international standards. Meanwhile, on 3 October, the European Union announced a 650 million euro aid package for Ethiopia, the bloc’s first step towards normalising relations with the Country.
The NGO Human Right Watch also claims that atrocities continue. “The November ceasefire in northern Ethiopia has not stopped the ethnic cleansing of Tigreans in western Tigray,” said Laetitia Bader, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
To learn more, read our Ethiopia conflict factsheet
On the cover photo, United Nations Office Geneva (UNOG) located in the Palais des Nations building at Geneva city (Switzerland) © saiko3p/Shutterstock.com