Diplomatic posts for ENDF Generals protects them from prosecution

Addis Standard reports Generals Bacha and Hassen are to be appointed to diplomatic posts

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s appointment of Ethiopian National Defense Force senior leaders, General Bacha Debele and General Hassen Ibrahim, along with a whole new slate of foreign diplomats might seem strange but there is hidden rationale behind this action. One very credible theory behind this action has nothing to do with these appointees diplomatic skills but rather is likely to be an attempt to shield them from international or domestic prosecution for war crimes carried out under their leadership.

Remember that in August 2021  the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had completed a report that human rights violations had been committed in Ethiopian Tigray conflict ostensibly by all parties. This report was criticized for not including all the potential war crimes especially the massacre of church goers in Axum. The former Ethiopian Minister of Women, Youth, and Children Filsan Abdi who went to Mekelle in July 2021 has stated repeatedly that she found credible evidence for widespread violation of women from ENDF and Eritrean forces which were downplayed by Abiy Ahmed leading to her resignation. In December 2021 after examining what evidence was available the UN Human Rights Commission voted to sponsor an international investigation.

There is good legal precedent that personal immunity (immunity ratione personae) and functional immunity relating to the office held (immunity ratione materiae) given to diplomats may offer protection from international prosecution. Legal scholars who study the history of prosecution of war crimes note that there is a “culture of impunity which contributes to a climate in which human rights violations persist and are not deterred”. Thus mechanisms of enforcement are often not available because of these loopholes in prosecution.

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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