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Atrocity crimes still being committed in Ethiopia, UN experts warn

The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia said it was vital independent investigators continue to review the country’s dire human rights situation.”

“We are gravely concerned about the situation in Ethiopia and the potential for future atrocities,” said Mohamed Chande Othman, Chairperson of the Commission.

Risk factors remain

“Our report shows that the overwhelming majority of risk factors for future atrocity crimes are present in Ethiopia, including ongoing serious violations, widespread violence and instability, and deeply entrenched impunity.”

The warning follows another Commission report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council last month, which concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020.

That was the date that hostilities began between Government forces and forces of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which spread to much of northern Ethiopia. A ceasefire was agreed in November 2022.

According to the commission, “the latest detailed findings are based on an assessment of the risk factors for atrocity crimes, which are the most serious crimes against humankind,” highlighting that “these crimes – including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – are identified in the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.”

The Commission’s report found that all eight of the common risk factors are now present in Ethiopia.

“There is a very real and imminent risk that the situation will deteriorate further, and it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that investigations persist so human rights violations can be addressed, and the worst tragedies averted,” said Steven Ratner, one of the independent experts.

Atrocities against civilians

Despite the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, the Commission has determined that serious violations are continuing in the Tigray region.

It has confirmed the ongoing presence of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia, and continuing atrocities against civilians, in particular rape and other forms of sexual violence.

The Commission has also expressed alarm about the deteriorating situation in the Amhara region, including emerging reports of extrajudicial killings and mass arrests. Most, if not all, of the structural drivers of violence and conflict remain unaddressed.

Human rights violations

“One of the Human Rights Council’s most important roles is to help prevent human rights violations and respond to human rights emergencies,” said commission member Radhika Coomaraswamy. “The situation in Ethiopia clearly merits such attention and it is vital that this continues.” 

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