International human rights commission probes war crimes in Ethiopia

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A commission set up by the UNHRC is investigating war crimes in Ethiopia.
A commission set up by the UNHRC is investigating war crimes in Ethiopia.
PHOTO: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • The International Commission of Human Rights Experts is investigating war crimes in Ethiopia.
  • The Tigray transitional government has called for an impartial and credible investigation.
  • About half a million people have died in the civil war in Ethiopia, compared to about 14 000 people in the Russia-Ukraine war.

The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (Ichree) started investigating war crimes in the country on Monday, and the transitional government of Tigray called on it to be impartial.

Set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Ichree is expected to conduct interviews with state role players, non-state actors, and victims of the almost two-year civil war. A communiqué and report on the findings will be issued.

It's the commission's first visit to Ethiopia since its establishment on the basis of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on 17 December, last year.

It is investigating human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law violations in Ethiopia that were committed by all parties to the conflict from 3 November 2020.

The three-member commission is led by Kaari Betty Murungi from Kenya, who is joined by American Steven Ratner and Sri Lankan Radhika Coomaraswamy.

They are being supported by a secretariat based in Entebbe, Uganda.

In a statement via its external affairs office, the transitional government of Tigray said it was committed to credible and independent investigations of all atrocities during the war.

But it said that, since the area is the epicentre of the atrocities, if any credible investigation is carried out, locals are "indispensable interlocutors" and the Ethiopian government should not be allowed to "dictate the parameters and scope of the investigation".

It also said investigations into the atrocities should not be based on a recent report by the Office High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) - another UN body in partnership with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a state entity.

This is because the latter is a body created by those accused of human rights abuses.

There has been a mini truce in Tigray since April to allow for much-needed aid relief for an estimated 5.2 million people.

This period, up to now, has yielded positive indicators towards the restoration of peace with minimal clashes.

ALSO READ | Ethiopia arrests relief aid chief amid corruption allegations

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium estimated that up to half a million people died as a result of violence and starvation linked to the conflict.

The UN estimates about 14 400 people have been killed in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia has received global condemnation for its war against Ukraine. Some aid agencies, such as Médecins du Monde, announced that some of their donor partners had started to divert aid to Ukraine.

But the Ethiopian government is yet to be held accountable through sanctions.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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