Africa: News - Ethiopia Calls On AU to Stop Commission of Inquiry On Rights Abuse in Tigray Says Outside Scoop of Agreement, Lacks Legal Basis

An MSF translator asks people to line up to wait for medical consultations at a mobile clinic in Adiftaw, Tigray.

Addis Abeba — Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is "regrettable to note that the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights made a unilateral announcement on the establishment of a "Commission of Inquiry" and said it was "completely outside the scope of the invitation by the government and lacks legal basis."

On June 15, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), announced that "in accordance with its mandate of promotion and protection of human rights in Africa under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Charter)," a Commission of Inquiry on Tigray was formed and "will officially commence its work on 17 June 2021."

According to ACHPR, the Commission of Inquiry will begin its work from its headquarters in Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. "The Commission of Inquiry has a mandate to, inter alia, investigate allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and to gather all relevant information so as to determine whether the allegations constitute serious and massive violations of human rights," ACHPR said.

However, Ethiopia said while it was engaged in good faith to facilitate the necessary conditions for the joint investigation, "the unilateral announcement of ACHPR on establishing a "Commission of Inquiry" undermines the cooperative spirit and the ongoing efforts of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to formalize the modalities of the stated investigation. It is also inconsistent with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Rules of Procedure of the Commission itself."

Full Statement

It is to be recalled that the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, during the meeting of the African Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), held on 9th March 2021 at the Heads of State and Government level, has clearly expressed its willingness to engage the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to conduct a joint investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia during the law enforcement operation. To that effect, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia held a follow-up discussion with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the way forward on 11th March 2021 in line with the political guidance from the Chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council. Accordingly, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission released a statement on the same day appreciating Ethiopia's initiative and underlining the importance of engaging our own AU treaty bodies. Furthermore, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has written a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia accepting the proposal for a joint investigation. In response, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic Ethiopia has written back to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights commending its interest to engage and designating a focal institution.It is, however, regrettable to note that the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights made a unilateral announcement on the establishment of a "Commission of Inquiry" which is completely outside the scope of the invitation by the government and lacks legal basis. While the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic Ethiopia was engaged in good faith to facilitate the necessary conditions for the joint investigation, the unilateral announcement of ACHPR on establishing a "Commission of Inquiry" undermines the cooperative spirit and the ongoing efforts of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to formalize the modalities of the stated investigation. It is also inconsistent with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Rules of Procedure of the Commission itself. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as an African Union institution has an obligation to engage with member states in constructive and principled partnership. It still has the opportunity to rectify this unfortunate and unhelpful step and engage in good faith in a joint investigation which it has already accepted. Such unhelpful actions by the Commission will not advance the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in the continent and will rather undermine mutual confidence with member states. By choosing to proceed in such a misguided direction, the Commission will only defeat the very purpose it is established for. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia reiterates its readiness and once again calls upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to immediately cease the process it launched which is not acknowledged by Ethiopia and engage with relevant authorities in Ethiopia to finalize the modalities regarding the proposed investigation.

Spokesperson Office, 17 June 2021

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