Omna Tigray: On Ethiopia’s Attempts to Terminate the ICHREE’s Mandate and Evade Accountability and Justice
On February 15, 2023, during his opening remarks to the Executive Council Session of the African Union, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen expressed Ethiopia’s plan to propose “a resolution for the Council’s consideration on terminating the [International Commission of Human Rights Experts’ (ICHREE)] mandate.” The unprecedented forthcoming resolution calls into question Ethiopia’s commitment to ensure accountability and justice for Tigrayans and other victims of human rights violations in Ethiopia over the past few years. United Nations (UN) delegations must swiftly and vehemently reject this resolution when tabled at the current UN Human Rights Council session.
The Ethiopian government’s widespread blanket impunity for serious abuses during the war on Tigray paved the way for escalating violations (conflict-related sexual violence and wanton killings especially) and is a primary reason human rights abuses continue in Tigray and other regions. The Ethiopian government’s scant previous acknowledgments of allegations concerning its army’s and allied forces’ grave crimes bore little fruit regarding accountability and redress for victims. The lack of justice, accountability, and recognition of the atrocities committed has resulted in victims’ distrust of domestic transitional justice and reconciliation processes led by the Ethiopian government.
The ICHREE’s mandate, at its core, seeks to engage with all relevant stakeholders to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee laws. More specifically, the mechanism aims to “collect and preserve evidence, identify those responsible, where possible, and to make such information accessible and usable” thoroughly and impartially in a manner that has not yet been seen. Therefore, the mandate is essential in pushing forward accountability for human rights violations and abuses, establishing the facts, and providing recommendations to further justice, healing, and reconciliation.
Time and time again, the Ethiopian government has committed to addressing human rights violations. It is to be understood then that the Ethiopian government’s call for the ICHREE’s mandate termination is an attempt to evade its responsibilities and international obligations. This undermining of the UN Human Rights Council may set a precedent for how the world reacts to and views impunity for rights abuses in the future.
Equally, scaling down the efforts of the ICHREE to simply technical assistance and capacity-building efforts will deny victims the true, comprehensive justice they deserve. Given the strong distrust in the Ethiopian state and its complete denial of simply having an independent investigation, it would also pave the way for Ethiopia to set a lower bar in securing justice and accountability for grave international crimes. Thus, Tigrayans are asking the international community to intervene.
The success of the peace agreement, which offers a glimpse of hope after two years of brutal conflict, will primarily depend on its successful implementation. Considering the scope of violations, the range of actors involved, and Ethiopia’s historical due process issues, the ICHREE mandate would serve as complementary to the ongoing peace process, helping to ensure lasting peace by also helping to ensure the non-recurrence of crimes in the future. As such, UN Human Rights Council members and observers must reiterate their support of the mandate and thwart Ethiopia’s efforts to terminate it prematurely.
Omna Tigray – Press Release, March 17, 2023