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Ethiopia: Premature End of UN Human Rights Commission Obstructs Justice and Elevates Risk of Further Atrocities

The failure of the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) prevents survivors and victims of human rights violations from any credible access to justice and could lead to further atrocities, said the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), Health Professionals Network for Tigray (HPN4T), the Organization for Justice and Accountability (OJAH), and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).  

Since its creation in 2021, the Commission has documented ongoing and horrifying war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity committed since the outbreak of armed conflict in Ethiopia in November 2020.  

“Without the comprehensive and sustained independent investigation that ICHREE has been providing there can be little hope that survivors, their families and communities can be healed and receive justice,” said Saman Zia-Zarifi, JD, LLM, PHR’s executive director.   

Since no Member State of the Human Rights Council has met today’s deadline for sponsoring a resolution continuing ICHREE’s mandate, GCR2P, HPN4T, OJAH and PHR call on Council Member States to ensure ongoing monitoring of human rights abuses that meet at least the following minimum standards:  

  1. Undertake sustained, independent investigations into past and ongoing violations and abuses, including the collection and preservation of evidence, as a precondition for future accountability processes; 
  2. Monitor, assess, and publicly report on progress in the implementation of ICHREE’s recommendations, including the minimum benchmarks to ensure that any future transitional justice policy meets international and regional standards; integrate a gender perspective and takes a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach; and include scrutiny of violations taking place in all parts of the country; and 
  3. Publicly and regularly report to the Human Rights Council on the comprehensive, independent, timely and gender-sensitive monitoring of the situation in all parts of Ethiopia. 

“It is shameful that Member States of the Human Rights Council have failed to respond to the ongoing violations documented by ICHREE as well as a number of credible organizations and have abdicated on one of their core responsibilities try to prevent further atrocities even as conflicts spread across Ethiopia,” said Zia-Zarifi.  

“The failure to renew ICHREE does not remove from any Member State the responsibility to uphold international standards of human rights – it only makes it more difficult,” said Health Professionals Network for Tigray.

In a recent report, OJAH and PHR documented war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated in Tigray in the form of widespread and systematic conflict-related sexual violence. Through analysis of more than 300 medical records of survivors, PHR and OJAH determined that survivors were overwhelmingly women and girls ranged in age from six to 69; that survivors experienced delays in seeking medical attention for an average of five months following the attack or attacks; and that sexual violence was often perpetrated by groups and at times involved captivity and use of weapons.  

These findings are consistent with ICHREE’s September 2023 report conclusions, which estimated that “the numbers of survivors of sexual violence who sought care [in the Tigray region] between November 2020 and July 2023… exceeds 10,000.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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