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News: AU rights commission quietly liquidates inquiry on Tigray, removes trace of page from website

A red Cross Ambulance overturned after the driver was shot at while driving a pregnant women to a clinic in the Tigray region. Photo: Screenshot/AddisStandard

Addis Abeba – The African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), had quietly liquidated the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in the Tigray Region, the first Commission established to monitor reports of grave human rights violations in the peak of Ethiopia’s two years war in the Tigray region.

ACHPR has also deleted the page where it first announced the formation of the inquiry commission.

ACHPR announced the decision with its “Resolution on the termination of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation in the Tigray Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” published a month ago on 13 June.

But the news surfaced as of Monday owing to the launching of a new report by a coalition of regional and international civil society organizations assessing the implementations of nine months African Union-brokered peace deal signed between the federal government and the TPLF in Pretoria.

ACHPR’s Commission of Inquiry on Tigray was established in June 2021 as a result of a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council which was held in March of the same year, and following the announcement by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, informing the Commission that the Ethiopian government was willing to engage the AU to conduct investigations jointly with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The Commission of Inquiry on Tigray was therefore formed “in accordance with [AU’s] mandate of promotion and protection of human rights in Africa under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights” and had officially commenced its work on 17 June 2021 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 announcing the formation of the iniquity commission.

“There was no joint initiative with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission either, at least not known to the general public”

But the Ethiopian government denounced the ACHPR for making “a unilateral announcement on the establishment of a “Commission of Inquiry.” It also said it was “completely outside the scope of the invitation by the government and lacks legal basis” and called the formation of the inquiry commission “regrettable.”

During its two years of existence ACHPR never published a report on its activities, and it was not clear if it maintained office presence in Addis Abeba, the headquarters of the African Union Commission. Its team were also “never allowed to travel to Tigray”, according to a person with knowledge to the matter. “There was no joint initiative with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission either, at least not known to the general public,” the person who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity said.

With the termination of ACHPR inquiry commission, the only independent commission with a task to uncover rampant human rights violations in Ethiopia’s war is the UN’s International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), which is still not allowed to set foot in the areas of rights abuses despite having its final year to operate.

Nevertheless, the US government has determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Forces and Amhara forces have committed “crimes against humanity” in the Tigray region, whereas all sides have committed “war crimes” during Ethiopia’s two years war that started in Tigray and spread to Amhara and Afar regions. AS

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