In response to today’s report by UN experts (International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, or ICHREE) on ongoing human rights violations in Ethiopia, the following statement is attributable to Erika Dailey, director of advocacy, policy and communications at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR):
“War crimes and crimes against humanity – mass killings, rape, starvation, destruction of schools and medical facilities, forced displacement – rage on largely unabated in Ethiopia, in spite of a truce signed last year. While many policymakers would like to ‘turn the page’ on Ethiopia, the new ICHREE report spotlights devastating violations that cannot be ignored. These grave abuses – including ‘the systematic rape and sexual violence of women and girls’ by armed forces – demand acknowledgement, accountability, rehabilitation, and redress.
“ICHREE’s findings are highly consistent with the report published by PHR and the Organization for Justice and Accountability in the Horn of Africa (OJAH) last month, which documented widespread and systematic conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray even after the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in November 2022. Based on estimates from health care providers, ICHREE estimates that there are least 10,000 survivors of sexual violence in Tigray alone; this is a staggering figure and likely an undercount due to barriers for survivors to access health centers.
“Impunity is the norm in Ethiopia – and impunity fuels the ongoing atrocities. These new findings show that leaving justice and accountability processes in the hands of the Ethiopian government – which is responsible for and implicated in many of the violations detailed in the report – would be unthinkable. The government of Ethiopia is obliged to protect people from violations perpetrated by all actors, including Eritrean forces.
“The only credible path forward is through an independent, international accountability mechanism. We continue our demand for the renewal of ICHREE’s mandate at the UN Human Rights Council this week, along with 64 other human rights organizations.
“To date, survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Ethiopia have been unable to access critical health care to address the physical and mental trauma they have experienced, nor justice or accountability for the violence they have experienced. The impacts of conflict-related sexual violence increase the longer they go unaddressed. In addition to the profound personal tolls, ICHREE rightly points out the ‘the destabilizing effect of sexual violence continues to significantly weaken the social fabric’ of the country. By failing to act, domestic and international stakeholders permit this ‘destabilizing effect’ and the devastating health impacts of this violence to compound.
“ICHREE’s report shows that the risk for further atrocities is clearly visible. To avoid further deterioration of the human rights situation, the Ethiopian government must work with the United Nations and the African Union to address the rights and needs of tens of thousands of survivors and victims for immediate humanitarian aid and access to justice, and take concrete steps toward transitional justice.
“Renewing the ICHREE mandate is the bare minimum. Failure to extend this necessary and credible UN body would reflect badly on the UN Human Rights Council.”
The following quote is attributable to the Organization for Justice and Accountability in the Horn of Africa (OJAH):
“Today’s ICHREE’s report echoes many of the findings detailed in the OJAH-PHR report. ICHREE documents patterns of widespread and systematic sexual violence perpetrated against women and children across Tigray by members of the Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amharan forces as well as Fano militias. ICHREE’s report further details mass killings, arbitrary arrests, forced displacements in Tigray and severe human rights violations in other parts of Ethiopia, including Amhara, Afar, and Oromia.
“Given these findings and the lack of confidence in Ethiopia’s transitional justice framework, we urge permanent representatives of member and observer states of the UN Human Rights Council to sponsor and adopt a resolution that extends the mandate of ICHREE for at least another year.”
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.