Awaiting findings of the ACHPR ongoing investigation into Tigray atrocities

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is “regrettable to note that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights made a unilateral announcement on the establishment of a “Commission of Inquiry” and said it was “completely outside the scope of the invitation by the government and lacks legal basis.”

The report of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights regarding Tigray which has been underway for some time now has not yet been released but their severe concerns have been well communicated. On May 12, 2021 the whole body of the ACHPR agreed there was need to investigate potential human rights violations in Tigray.

Even though Ethiopia is a charter member of the ACHPR and its associated African Court in June 2021 it refused the jurisdiction of the ACHPR to investigate Tigray.  Subsequently the ACHPR has continued investigations and updates. This body has sought out input from first hand witnesses to the events in Tigray which Ethiopian lead bodies have sought to avoid.

The government of Ethiopia has sent written statements opining that they have not committed atrocities but so far this has not convinced the ACHPR to conclude their ongoing search for the truth. They have asked all parties to cease military action and reminded the Ethiopian government of its obligations to protect human rights.

Unlike the joint United Nations and Ethiopian Human Right Commission investigations which absolutely neglected and in fact intentionally avoided certain indicated sources of investigation, the ACHPR has taken testimony for first hand witnesses in Tigray including health care providers who personally lived the war and cared for the victims. Clearly one of the reasons of the destruction of hospitals and  clinics by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces was to eliminate evidence of atrocity. Additionally as I and others have discussed at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital there was intimidation of nurses and doctors to falsely write into medical records that civilian injuries were due to Tigray fighters. The AHCPR has obtained testimony from many of those involved even if they were now out of region.

The ACHPR has expressed concern over the following in it’s resolution

Deeply concerned about allegations of gross violations in the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, including sexual violence against women and girls, gang rapes used as weapons of war, killings of civilians by belligerents and extrajudicial killings;

Also noting, and with concern, the situation of Eritrean refugees living in camps in Tigray region, and allegations of abductions, extrajudicial killings and forced repatriation to Eritrea of refugees and asylum seekers;

Deeply concerned about reports of the large-scale movement of Tigrayan refugees fleeing the conflict to Sudan and neighboring countries;

Further concerned about reports of massive and forced internal displacement of thousands of people in the Tigray region who find themselves in situations of isolation;

Expressing its deep concern at reports about the intensity of hostilities which have led to an increased number of victims and casualties in the ongoing conflict, and which have resulted in serious and gross violations of human rights, breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law, refugee rights and the provisions of the Kampala Convention;

Noting with concern the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, the challenges to the population’s access to humanitarian assistance, and reports of the use of starvation as a weapon of war;

Recalling reports with allegations of human rights violations against the civilian population, including attacks against civilian infrastructure, destruction of property, looting, destruction of refugee camps, which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity;

Further concerned about the threats to the safety, security, well-being and livelihood of the people of the Tigray region, as well as the loss of lives, destruction of public and private infrastructure, as the military conflict continues;

Conscious of the need to act as soon as possible to contribute to the resolution of the conflict, including the determination of accountability, in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and provide reparation and restoration to the victims, as well as bring about national reconciliation, with a view to enhancing stability, security and peace in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;

Noting the report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission of 24 March 2021 confirming the killings by Eritrean troops in the town of Aksum and the statement of the Ethiopian Prime Minister acknowledging the violation of human rights in the Tigray region;

At the last sessions in August 2021 resolutions where passed to obtain opinions of experts to further investigation.

On October 23, 2021 the ACHPR issued a press statement about Ethiopian airstrikes in the Tigray region saying

 

The Commission has since been closely monitoring the crisis in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (Ethiopia) and is deeply saddened by the alarming reports of the recent resurgence of   military offensive   between the Federal Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.

Reports indicate that Ethiopia’s Military have carried out airstrikes, the fourth in a week in the capital city of Mekele, as fighting intensified between the Federal Government and Regional Forces.

The Commission is deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia and its impact on the civilian population amidst widespread allegations of human rights abuses including, the killings of thousands of people; disruption of livelihoods; and displacement of more than two million people since the beginning of the conflict in November 2021.

The Commission is also concerned about the increasing humanitarian needs in the region where millions of people are reported to be in dire need of food and aid relief assistance, with hindered access to the necessary humanitarian aid.

The Commission would once again like to remind the Federal Government of Ethiopia of its commitments and obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The Commission reiterates its call on all the parties to the conflict to halt all military offensive and end hostilities; prioritize the welfare of the people of Tigray; protect its civilians; and engage in a dialogue with a view to finding lasting, peaceful and mutually acceptable solutions to the crisis.

The Commission urges the Federal Government of Ethiopia to take all necessary measures to restore and facilitate the speedy and unhindered access of humanitarian aid and relief, particularity food and nutrition supplies, medicine and other assistance to the region, to avoid famine   and increased hunger related deaths; as well as restore essential services including essential commercial commodities, electricity, communications and banking services in the Tigray Region.

The Commission also associates itself with the various condemnations concerning the situation in the Ethiopia, and calls on all stakeholders within the International Community to combine their efforts in order to take appropriate measures needed to restore peace and security in Ethiopia.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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