Tigrayan Organizations and Allies Call on the ACHPR to Reverse its Decision to End the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in Tigray
Dear African Commission of Human and Peoples Rights,
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our great disappointment in the decision to terminate the investigation into the crimes that have been committed during the conflict in Tigray. Given the meaningful steps taken and the trust and confidence built in the ACHPR amongst Tigrayan groups and allies, we believe the inquiry was essential to ensuring accountability for the serious human rights abuses that have been committed in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Over the past two years, the human rights situation in Ethiopia has deteriorated significantly, with estimates of 600,000 killed, 900,000 in famine-like conditions, and reports of up to 120,000 cases of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in unoccupied areas of Tigray alone. Various governments globally have stated that the human rights abuses that have taken place in Tigray amount to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Although we are glad to see a cessation of hostilities agreement (CoHA) signed in November 2022, it should be noted that we have yet to achieve a meaningful, just peace nor made progress in any domestic justice and accountability process. Since the signing of the CoHA:
- Eritrean and Amhara forces continue to occupy various parts of Tigray, including northern, western and southern Tigray. In Western Tigray, Amhara forces have continued an ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans, forcing them out of their homes, and giving those that remain new identity cards that claim they are Amhara. Their ethnic cleansing campaign is believed to be in an effort to change the demographics for a future referendum (similar to southern Tigray). In northern Tigray, we continue to hear of Eritrean forces committing various atrocities including acts of sexual violence, abductions into Eritrea, blocking aid and the use of fear and intimidation tactics to claim the land as their own–putting our minority communities, the Irob and Kunama, at risk. Under the CoHA, the Ethiopian government has agreed to protect its civilians yet has not done so, as seen in these ongoing atrocities.
- We have yet to know the fate of hundreds, if not thousands, of Tigrayans detained by the Ethiopian government on the basis of their identity. This includes civilians, prisoners of war, and former Tigrayan Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) members. Those detained are directly under the purview of the Ethiopian government, and thus, all atrocities and human rights violations committed against them are directly tied to this federal body.
- The suspension of aid has left millions starving. Most recently, it was found that Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan authorities and forces were involved in a wide scale diversion of aid across the country. Though we recognize and support the need for an investigation, it comes at a time where we are actively seeing infants, new mothers, the chronically ill and elderly dying due to lack of aid. It is critical that we find ways to simultaneously implement reform around aid distribution while still providing aid to those who need it most. There are parts of Tigray that have been inaccessible to aid since 2022, among them lands occupied by Eritrean forces.
With atrocities still ongoing, the situation in Tigray remains dire and thus, the termination of the inquiry is a major setback for the victims of these abuses. As organizations that have supported the ACHPR in its investigation in one way or another, we are truly at a loss for words–for what we will tell the CRSV survivors and other victims. They built up the courage to share their devastating stories in the hopes that it would be utilized for a larger aim: justice and accountability for the millions of Tigrayans, yet adding insult to injury, ACHPR’s investigation was silently terminated.
The ACHPR has a long history of investigating human rights abuses in Africa, and in recent years, the Commission has played a key role in holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes. For example, the ACHPR’s inquiry into the Kenyan post-election violence led to the prosecution of several high-level officials. The termination of the Tigray inquiry is a clear departure from the ACHPR’s previous commitment to accountability and represents a missed opportunity to ensure perpetrators are not continuing abuses with impunity. It unfortunately sends a message to victims that their suffering will not be recognized, and that the international community is not willing to take action to prevent and punish such abuses. The termination also represents a violation of the victims’ right to truth, limiting the opportunity to validate their experiences–for someone to say, “we believe you.”
Given the lack of meaningful support to Tigrayans or their contributions in support of the war, Tigrayans do not trust Ethiopian-led human rights monitors and other domestic justice mechanisms. Tigrayan’s lack of trust in these domestic processes will also make it fairly difficult to conduct thorough investigations and achieve the level of justice and accountability desired. This is why the work of the ACHPR was incredibly important–it was one of two institutions that Tigrayans trusted to deliver justice and accountability, with strong recommendations. A quality report from the ACHPR is essential to help establish the facts amidst a 2-year blackout and prevent future human rights abuses in Ethiopia through accountability. Once we establish the facts, it can then lead the way to promoting just peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia.
The termination of the inquiry has also left us with a few questions:
- What happens to the data and testimonies collected from survivors and victims?
- Are there opportunities for this evidence to be anonymized and shared with international bodies such as the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE)?
- What does a meaningful African-led justice and accountability effort for Ethiopia look like?
We strongly urge the ACHPR to reconsider its decision and to allow the inquiry to continue. The victims of human rights abuses in Tigray deserve justice, and in line with its founding principles, the ACHPR has a responsibility to ensure that they get it.
Alliance of Civil Society Organizations in Tigray (ACSOT), Network of 72 CSOs in Tigray
Women’s Association of Tigray (WAT)
Tigray Human Rights Network
Women of the Horn
Center for Policy Dialogue
Legal and Human Rights Centre Tanzania
Botswana Centre for Human Rights
Sudanese Human Rights Monitor
African Women Leaders Forum
Youth Empowerment and Self-Sustainability
Security and Justice for Tigrayans (SJT)
Tigray Action Committee (TAC)
Tigray Human Rights Forum
Rescue Tigrayan Rape Victims
Union of Tigrayans in Belgium
Tigrayan Advocacy & Development Association UK
Tigray Youth Network UK
Mekete Tigray UK
The Global Society of Tigray Scholars and Professionals (GSTS)
Association of Tigrayans in Denmark
Association of Tigrayans in France
Tigray Development Association in France
Association of Tigrayans in the Netherlands
Association Tigray Development Association in the Netherlands (TDA NL)
Tigrayan Youth Association in Italy
Forum Mekete Italy
Tigrayan Scholars in Italy (TSI)
Cultural Association and Social Promotion of the Tigray Community in Italy
Volunteer Association for the Development of Tigray, Italy
Association for the Development of Tigray (AST)
Associations of Tigrayan Community in Bologna
Tigray Community Association in Tuscany (ACTT)
Association of Tigrayan Women in Italy
Tigray Community Switzerland
Association of Tigrayan Women in Sweden/TKFS
Union of Tigrayan Associations in Sweden
Press Release, September 05, 2023