Joint Statement on the release of the OHCHR-EHRC joint investigation, November 6, 2021
1. We, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, would like to extend our gratitude to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for their joint effort to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses, and of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international refugee law committed by parties to the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia between 3 November 2020 and 28 June 2021.
2. Notwithstanding the considerable challenges faced in gaining access to places, people and documentation, we commend OHCHR and EHRC for the impartial and transparent work. We also underscore the value of the investigation’s collection and documentation of human rights abuses and violations, violations of international humanitarian law, for the purpose of supporting justice and accountability on behalf of victims and survivors. We underscore the concern expressed by High Commissioner Bachelet regarding continued restrictions on access for humanitarian organisations.
3. It is imperative to ensure meaningful and systematic accountability of those responsible for such abuses and violations. The report demonstrates the need for further investigations into those abuses and violations documented in the report as well as into allegations since 28 June 2021.
4. The findings of the investigation included in the joint report are grave, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that abuses and violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, such as those involving attacks on civilians and civilian objects, unlawful or extra-judicial killings and executions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, abductions and enforced disappearances and sexual and gender-based violence, have taken place. The authors of the report conclude that some of these violations and abuses may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. These acts have resulted in suffering and distress as well as an atmosphere of terror and widespread fear among the civilian population. The report highlights widespread impunity for those responsible for these acts and lack of access to support for those who have been targeted, as well as for witnesses.
5. We strongly encourage all parties to the conflict to accept and implement the findings and recommendations. It is critical that all those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, referenced in the report are held to account, and the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea should ensure there are credible investigations.
6. In that regard, we acknowledge the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to provide redress to victims of the violations and abuses identified in the report, noting in particular, the need for redress and support for victims of gender-based atrocities. We urge a similar commitment be made by the Government of Eritrea and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and all other parties to the conflict.
7. We also welcome the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to a transitional justice process and its decision to establish a Special Prosecutor’s Office and a dedicated Judicial Bench to oversee cases involving defendants accused of committing the violations referenced in the joint report.
8. All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including with respect to the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel. We also call for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia and underline the need for the Government of Eritrea to ensure accountability for violations and abuses committed by its forces in Tigray.
9. Truth, justice, and accountability for victims and survivors requires more than investigations and prosecutions. We call on governing authorities to expand health services for survivors, including psychological support and sexual and reproductive healthcare, and support for community-based care, including by ceasing actions that continue to hinder humanitarian access. We reiterate our call for an inclusive national dialogue, which includes the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and youth, peacebuilders and community leaders.
10. Now, more than ever, the findings in the report make it abundantly clear that, as the war in Northern Ethiopia rages on, the human toll of the conflict will continue to mount, not only through the conflict but also through starvation. As the risk of further atrocities increases, we call on all parties to immediately cease hostilities, impunity for attacks on humanitarian personnel, and other actions that continue to hinder the delivery of urgent life-saving assistance to the people impacted. All parties must enter into negotiations without preconditions on a durable ceasefire and commit to achieving a durable peace, underscored by justice and accountability, that will enable future efforts towards reconciliation. Justice and accountability are crucial components of sustainable peace.
11. We support the stability, unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. We look forward to working with the African Union’s High Representative to the Horn of Africa, and the United Nations in efforts to cease hostilities, end impunity and support a lasting solution to issues of peace and security.
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States