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Ethiopian authorities cannot investigate their own crimes in Tigray  

Given that it is killing its own citizens, state sovereignty is a weak shield for the federal government.

The ongoing gross violations of international laws in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, perpetrated by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces, have shocked the international community. Powerful states such as the US and international actors like top UN officials have denounced the crimes.

The massacres, rapes, forced displacements, and coordinated expropriation and destruction of private and public property across Tigray have also attracted global media attention.

Reputable entities such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the EU, and the UN have called for action, as their reports highlight that the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies, as well as forces from the Amhara region, have committed heinous crimes against Tigray’s civilians.

Starve and subjugate

The atrocities, destruction, and displacement of Tigrayans are on the rise, with no signs of them subsiding. In fact, reports are emerging that attacks have intensified.

Following the US call for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray, Amhara factions delivered an ultimatum to some Tigrayans to leave their homes in Western Tigray or face the consequences, according to local sources. This has been accompanied by more forced evictions, killing, and intimidation.

Despite this and the announcement made by the federal-appointed Tigray interim administration that “one million people are missing” from western Tigray, the federal government appears to be complicit—or perhaps a protagonist.

In the rest of Tigray, as part of a campaign to starve and subjugate the people of Tigray, crops have been vandalized, farmland burned, and animals killed by Eritrean and Amhara forces. Despite some increase in relief as a result of international pressure, perhaps

The sovereignty shield

The Eritrean and Ethiopian regimes, along with the Amhara elite, are in denial of the crimes committed, the impending famine, and the involvement and abhorrent behavior of Eritrean troops. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed even went as far as claiming on 30 November that not a single civilian had been killed during the intervention to remove Tigray’s government.

Indeed, in the name of sovereignty, federal policy has been to deny all wrongdoing, hinder impartial aid delivery, and limit access to the media and investigators.

Oddly, Ethiopian government supporters have now resorted to anti-colonialism slogans that were symbols of justice and equality to oppose western or UN demands regarding atrocities. This does not make any moral or legal sense, as the regime is violating the very foundations of global justice and the sovereignty of the Ethiopian people by, for example, willfully letting Eritrean soldiers commit atrocities against Ethiopian civilians.

Smoke and mirrors

A leaked briefing note from 2  March sent by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to its diplomats recognizes the build-up of pressure on the regime and its partner in crime, Eritrea, at the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council, and the African Union, and urges them to explain about two new “policy changes.”

The first is that Ethiopia has accepted the demand for unfettered access for aid agencies. Related to this, the document contains the unsubstantiated claim that over three million people in Tigray have received assistance.

The second policy asserts that Ethiopia has accepted a joint investigation of “alleged” crimes with international partners. It further claims that the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Police have begun inquiries. Basically, it says that while the Ethiopian regime will be in charge of the investigations, other agencies are allowed to tag along.

The document, however, falls short in addressing the biggest diplomatic failing: the nosediving reputation of the government as a result of the repeated lies. Examples include lying and misinforming the UN Secretary-General on Eritrea’s involvement and Abiy’s bizarre claim to parliament that no civilians were killed in the intervention.

The Economist and other renowned media and human rights groups have said that the Ethiopian authorities and its partner in crime, Eritrea, have used starvation as a weapon, as the pervasive and organized looting and destruction of property indicates.

Furthermore, the government’s aid delivery record is woeful. Notably, the practice of looting aid resources and the deliberate diversion of humanitarian aid by the Amhara and Eritrean forces for their own purposes is well-documented.

Impartial inquiry

Although investigations are essential, the Ethiopian government should not be in charge of them for the following reasons:

A. Ethiopian leaders, along with their security officials, are the prime suspects in the crimes being committed in Tigray. It is a foundational principle of criminal justice that likely defendants must be excluded from participating in investigations, let alone leading them. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Police, along with other federal security agencies, are implicated in the mass arrests, abuses, purges, and intimidation that have been part of the ethnic profiling of Tigrayans across Ethiopia.

B. The Foreign Ministry’s note, as well as their campaign and statements issued by diplomats such as Fitsum Arega, the ambassador to the US, deny crimes in Tigray. This has been reinforced by the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK, Teferi Melesse Desta, when he tried to defend indefensible atrocities. They do this partly by systematically attacking rights groups, reputed media, and governments who exposed and opposed the grave offenses.

C. Finally, the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara authorities are working to destroy, distort, and conceal evidence by intimidating and evicting victims, witnesses, and residents of mass crimes. Hence, both victim and witness protection, as well as the interests of justice, necessitate not allowing Ethiopian authorities to be involved in any way with an impartial criminal investigation into their own crimes.

Investigation demands

From here, it is necessary to take the following steps:

First, as explicitly proposed by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, “prompt, impartial, and transparent investigations” must be conducted.

Second, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other monitors must get access to Tigray, with a view to establishing the facts and contributing to accountability, as proposed by Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and subsequently endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. The best way forward for victim and witness protection is, however, to establish and dispatch a Commission of Inquiry, or to refer the case to the International Criminal Court without delay.

The bottom line is that those who are implicated in committing and condoning possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, either through extreme violence, or through starving the population, must not be in charge of the investigation of themselves, nor be in control of providing support to victims.

This is what the people of Tigray and their friends are expecting from tomorrow’s UN Security Council meeting—standing for justice and averting famine, and not being on the wrong side of history.

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Main photo: United Nations Security Council chamber; UN.

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About the author

Mistir Sew

This is a generic byline for all anonymous authors. The anonymity could be because they fear repercussions, as they are not authorized by their employers to express their views publicly, or for other reasons.

10 Comments

  • A secretive peace in the north two years ago, that became a false promise of peace, eventually degenerated into crimes and atrocities – a tragedy and a travesty. How western nations use their diplomatic and economic leverage for the reckoning about the crimes and ethnic cleansing they are now aware of, they can have an influence on the outcome.

  • It’s a wonderful and insightful article.

    Thank you for exposing Abiy’s and Afwerk’s governments as well as Amhara militias for their appalling human right violations and abuses in Tigray.

    Following the United States decision to independently investigate the crimes against humanity in Tigray, Abiy is behaving like a cat on hot bricks.

    Mistir Sew, thank you very much. Keep it up.

  • It’s a wonderful and insightful article. Afwerk’s governments as well as Amhara militias for their appalling human right violations and abuses in Tigray.

    Following the United States decision to independently investigate the crimes against humanity in Tigray, Abiy is behaving like a cat on hot bricks.

    Mistir Sew, thank you very much for exposing Abiy’s and Isaias’ governments as well as the Amhara militias for their heinous crimes against innocent civilians.

  • TO WHOM IT MAY OR MAY NOT CONCERN:

    The existing Ethiopian Constitution does not prohibit the Ethiopian government from sending only it’s own investigators to investigate the allegations in Tigray, if the current Ethiopian parliament chooses to send the government’s own investigators only, then that is what is going to happen per the current Ethiopian constitution.

    The existing Ethiopian Constitution does not compel the Ethiopian government to allow any investigation to be carried out if the Ethiopian parliament does not feel like it is necessary for any investigation to be carried out by any entity, whether national or international entity.

    Friendly advise: Try to hire the well known politician turned lobbyist, Lidetu Ayalew to put pressure on the Ethiopian parliament for you.

    • Could you please explain to me what Article 9 number 4 means in the Ethiopian constitutionArticle 9: Supremacy of the Constitution? here for your reference!

      1. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect.
      2. All citizens, organs of state, political organizations, other associations as well as their officials have the duty to ensure observance of the Constitution and to obey it.
      3. It is prohibited to assume state power in any manner other than that provided under the Constitution.
      4. All international agreements ratified by Ethiopia are an integral part of the law of the land.

  • Sashu Dudi
    “….When Ethiopians and Eritreans are united ,with more than 100 million people..” yes, and by extension despot Afwerkb is positive force that should be reckon with plus multitude of decade long. of criminal Eritrean elements within would be great friends again. Am I missing something here? My goodness? I would say that’s enough political scamming and long one.. BTW, I don’t think I’m the only one reading this blog. Hardly. I suspect that there more people reading and writings of various current issues and big or small. I appreciate their noble efforts. Coming back as recently as the last week from the land to North America , it great pleasure to do some reflection. Honestly, . I hard bare to time to por over and notice the this ongoing discussion going discussion. That said , I. , see where you coming from you mentioned this preposterous old argument and I can’t assure you most people would be up in arms, especially, in the East, the South , Center and the West if they ever notice such beastly of northern coalition about the old scheme to materializes or in the works.
    Nothing good would come out.of this mendacity..People had enough of this faux unity and false solidarity over hundred years.. Further, any one in his right mind shouldn’t accuse Mister Sew or anyone else as Tigrain or sympathizer because they simply express the opinion, unless they are proven gcriminals and willing accessories in of any particular regime. This is a typical Habesha low culture of deep-seated inferiority complex and intellectual dishonesty or village culture that must stop somewhere and sooner the better.

    • Sashu Dudi
      “….When Ethiopians and Eritreans are united with more than 100 million people…” yes, and by extension despot Afwerkb would be positive force that should be reckon with plus multitude of decade long. criminal Eritrean elements within would be great friends again. Am I missing something here? My goodness? I would say that’s enough political scamming and long one.. BTW, I don’t think I’m the only one reading this blog. Hardly. I suspect that there are more people reading and writings of various current issues, big or small. I appreciate their noble efforts. Coming back as recently as the last week from the land to North America , it great is pleasure to do some reflection. Honestly, . I hard barely a time to pore over or
      and give a feedback on the ongoing discussion going discussion dueblack of time and inconvenient issue like Internet access and personal interaction s. That said , I. see where you coming from you when mentioned this preposterous old argument and I can assure you most people would be up in arms, especially, in the East, the South , Center and the West if they ever notice such beastly of northern coalition about the old scheme to materializes or in the works.
      Nothing good would come out.of this mendacity..People had enough of this faux unity narratives and false solidarity over hundred years.. Further,no one in his right mind should accuse Mister Sew or anyone else as Tigrain or sympathizer ( they have right to be Tigrains as a group or sympathizers as well, if they because they simply express the opinion, unless they are proven gcriminals and willing accessories in of any particular regime so be it.This is a typical Habesha low culture of deep-seated inferiority complex and intellectual dishonesty or village culture that must stop somewhere and sooner the better.

  • To investigate by itself is blanket excuse that every nominal regime however corruption and mendacious would claim in the name of abstract and hollow sovereignty platitudes. I’m surprised by that all all. Anyway, a much I empathize with the suffering and abuses of Tigrain civilians, no to mention the role and despot Isias’ evil scheme across the border, it hard to muster an iota of solidarity or empathy with TPLF gangster and their rabid chauvinist backers over 30 years. They broke off every cardinal rule, entry legal code, of humanitarian norms and fraternally that could have bound communities together. They killed, maimed, invaded and starved to death countless innocent people like no tomorrow while stonewalling, manipulating and taunting nternational community in every step at same time. They used to self-contradicted and proudly cashed in hese barbaric policies. Somali, Oromos and other minority communities were the main victims. Sorry to say itvbut now it feels like a simple karma of what has happened there. That doesn’t mean Amhara loudmouths and ethnic agitators would make things any better but at least there must be a room for serious reflection of everyone concerned and stakeholders before things get out of hand and to break clear off this Abyssinian vicious and murderous cycle over the last 150 years.

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