GENEVA, A group of UN experts said on Thursday that since it last reported, the situation in Ethiopia has “deteriorated significantly” and that Eritrean troops and Amhara militias continue to commit atrocities against civilians in Tigray, the country’s northernmost state.
Mohamed Othman, chair of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, said there was some optimism when the body met last in March, but Ethiopia had refused to cooperate with the body’s mandate.
He said it was hoped that the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA), signed in Pretoria in Nov. 2022, “would pave the way for an end to one of the deadliest conflicts of the 21st century,” which has “devastated communities across northern Ethiopia.”
“This has not proved to be the case. Not only has the CoHA failed to bring about any comprehensive peace, but atrocities are ongoing, and conflict, violence, and instability are now near-national in dimension,” said Othman.
“Our latest report confirms that Eritrean troops and Amhara militias continue to commit atrocities against civilians in Tigray, including rape and sexual violence against women and girls.”
Othman said the commission is particularly concerned about the safety of minority Irob and Kunama communities living near the Eritrean border and a lack of reforms in Ethiopia.
The commission has also documented the continued forced expulsion of Tigrayans from Western Tigray; tens of thousands of women, men, and children cannot return to their homes.
It said refugees fleeing the conflict face further violations, including human trafficking.
“The continued presence of Eritrean forces on Ethiopian territory – more than 10 months after the COHA required their departure and after this Council called for their withdrawal – confirms an ongoing pattern of atrocities,” said the UN commissioner.
Ethiopian government violations
“It is a clear sign of continued complicity in and tolerance of such violations by the Ethiopian government,” Othman said, adding that by doing so, Ethiopia has failed in its primary legal duty as a state to protect its population from human rights violations by an external force.
“Moreover, the Commission considers that the prospect of accountability for atrocities by Eritrean forces is virtually non-existent,” he said.
The Ethiopian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Tsegab Kebebew Dak, rejected the report, calling it “sub-standard, deficient, and conspicuously political.”
“It failed to adduce evidence that meets internationally accepted standards. For the greater power, it relied on social media commentaries and partisan comments offered by asylum seekers in two neighboring countries,” he claimed.
Eritrea and other African countries, as well as China and Russia, slammed the UN commissioner’s report, while the US and European Union supported it.
The war between Ethiopian government forces and Tigray rebels erupted in Nov. 2020 when the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked federal army bases stationed in the northern region.
Hostilities subsided after the two sides signed agreements in Pretoria and Nairobi in November last year.
The Tigray conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions since Nov. 2020.
A UN report released late last year put displaced people at 2.75 million, with 12.5 million children said to require urgent humanitarian assistance.
Source: Anadolu Agency