Addis Abeba – In a report highlighting its initial findings and presented to the UN Human Rights Council, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations, such as extrajudicial killings, rape, sexual violence, and starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare have been committed in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020,” and that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that, in several instances, these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Commission also stated a disquieting conclusion that it “finds reasonable grounds to believe that the Federal Government and allied regional State governments have implemented a widespread range of measures designed to systematically deprive the population of Tigray of material and services indispensable for its survival, including healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation, education and food.”
According to the latest UNOCHA report, “movements of humanitarian convoy along the Semera – Mekelle route remains suspended since 24 August, hindering the transportation of humanitarian supplies. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights, which had been flying between Addis Abeba and Mekelle twice per week and had recently announced the organization of a third weekly flight, also remains suspended since 26 August, hampering the rotation of humanitarian workers and the transfer of cash for humanitarian operations.”
“The humanitarian crisis in Tigray is shocking, both in terms of scale and duration,” said Kaari Betty Murungi, chair of the Commission. “The widespread denial and obstruction of access to basic services, food, healthcare, and humanitarian assistance is having a devastating impact on the civilian population, and we have reasonable grounds to believe it amounts to a crime against humanity. We also have reasonable grounds to believe that the Federal Government is using starvation as a method of warfare.”
The Commission admitted that during its works it has “faced time and staffing constraints, lack of access to sites and documents”, including its requests “to various UN entities operating in Ethiopia to share documents and materials of interest”, which it said “were largely deflected, or responded to after an inordinate delay.” Therefore, the report “cannot offer an exhaustive record of all the events during the reporting period, nor a full strategy for transitional justice.”
Furthermore, the 19 pages report was confined “to the hostilities in Tigray and Amhara regions” and based on “selected incidents”. However, it detailed a wide range of gross human rights violations committed against civilians, including Eritrean refugees. The violations are committed to a varied degree by the Ethiopian national defense forces, Eritrean defense forces, Amhara region forces including militia and the irregular armed group, Fano, and the Tigrayan forces in the course of Ethiopia’s war.
More alarming is the Commission’s warning that the resumption of ongoing militarized hostilities in Tigray will bring the risk of further atrocity crimes, plunging Ethiopia into severe crisis.
Among its urgent recommendations include for “the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the African Union Peace and Security Council, and UN Security Council place the situation in Ethiopia on their agendas and take action aimed at restoring peace, stability and security in the region, thereby preventing further violations and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law,” and for immediate cessation of hostilities and violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties. AS