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UN’s Ethiopia war report blames all sides for violations

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

A joint investigation released yesterday by the United Nations’ main rights body and Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission found all sides in the year-long civil war had “committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

The report was much anticipated because the Ethiopian government has rejected the findings of previous investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which were based on interviews with refugees fleeing the besieged northern Tigray region. The government said it would heed this one and allow investigators access to the war zone. 

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said he would “recognise and accept” the report despite “serious reservations”.

He claimed the report vindicated the government as having not committed genocide or used deliberate starvation as a war tactic – although evidence of the latter has been unearthed by news outlets and corroborated by the UN.

On Tuesday, US president Joe Biden announced his administration’s intention to revoke long-standing trade benefits that enabled Ethiopia to export to the US without paying duties, citing “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights”. 

Ethiopia’s trade ministry responded in part by alluding to the rights report, which it said demonstrated the government’s serious intent to bring perpetrators to justice. 

“Only a government that’s committed to the highest standard of transparency and integrity would subject itself to this kind of scrutiny,” the ministry’s statement said. 

The conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands, brought Tigray to the brink of famine and threatened to plunge the country into a much broader civil war as the government loses its grip on power in the face of rebel gains. 

The US embassy in Addis Ababa urged Americans to avoid travel to Ethiopia

The report’s authors acknowledged being hampered by access restrictions by both rebels and the government and a lack of cooperation from the warring parties, which include the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments and militias from Ethiopian regions including Tigray, Amhara, Afar and Oromia. 

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While describing heinous crimes committed on all sides of the conflict – including door-to-door executions based on ethnicity, mass rapes and torture – the report did not discuss the proportion of crimes committed by each side and refrained from naming individual soldiers or commanders who may have been implicated in the 269 interviews that form the basis for the findings.

Neither did it mention that one of the UN’s main investigators was deported from Ethiopia in September

Tigrayan rebel leaders have also raised concerns over the impartiality of a report co-authored by investigators from a state-appointed institution, although it is headed by Daniel Bekele, who formerly worked for Human Rights Watch. 

This report presents an opportunity for all parties to acknowledge responsibility and commit to concrete measures on accountability, redress for victims and the search for a sustainable solution to end the suffering of millions,” Mr Bekele said. (© Washington Post)

© Washington Post


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