Addis Abeba – A coalition of prominent rights groups has called on member states of the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) ahead of the Council’s 54th session commencing September 11th in Geneva.
In a joint letter ahead of the session, organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and the World Peace Foundation urged a one year extension of ICHREE’s term which is set to expire this September. They argued investigations must continue given the dire human rights situation in Ethiopia despite last year’s cessation of hostilities agreement.
Established by the Human Rights Council in 2021, ICHREE has investigated allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides amidst the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Despite government obstruction, ICHREE presented findings last year of reasonable grounds to believe war crimes had occurred, the groups stated.
The rights groups sounded alarm over ongoing atrocities including rape, denial of humanitarian access, and ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans despite the formal end of hostilities. Abuses linked to government forces and militia groups have also engulfed the Amhara and Oromia regions in recent months, the added.
“The mandate, independence and impartial work of ICHREE remains critical at this juncture to ensure evidence gathering continues unimpeded and accountability efforts move forward,” the letter quoted Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa Director at Human Rights Watch as saying.
While the federal government has committed to transitional justice reforms, the groups expressed skepticism about the capacity of Ethiopia’s judicial institutions to prosecute crimes under international law.
“Victims deserve justice not government whitewashing. We call on the Human Rights Council to renew ICHREE’s term and maintain pressure on all parties to end abuses,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
This comes as Ethiopia revealed the conclusion of the public consultations on transitional justice policy options which have been underway across the country since March 2023, paving a way for the formulation of the national transitional justice policy.
The groups however, argued impartial investigations and reporting must not be delayed during the transitional justice process to ensure accountability for atrocities.
On 31, August, more than 30 civil society and human rights organizations have also expressed their disappointment, in an open letter addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), over the decision to terminate the mandate of the commission of inquiry on Tigray without publishing a report of its findings and recommendations. AS