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News: Human rights groups express concern over AU’s premature termination of Tigray Commission’s mandate

Refugees, who had escaped the conflict in the Tigray region, arrived near the banks of the Tekeze river at the Sudan-Ethiopia border in November 2020 (Photo: AP)

Addis Abeba – More than 30 civil society and human rights organizations have expressed their concern over the African Union’s decision to prematurely terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry into the situation in the Tigray region. In an open letter addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), these human rights groups expressed their disappointment over the decision to terminate the mandate without publishing a report of its findings and recommendations.

The letter read, “This decision contradicts the rationale behind the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and the core values underpinning the work of the African Commission as set out in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the 2020 Rules of Procedure.”

According to the groups, various civil society and human rights organizations provided briefings and information to the Commission of Inquiry regarding the nature and scale of human rights violations and abuses committed by the conflict parties.

In June 2023, Addis Standard reported that the African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) quietly ended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on the situation in the Tigray region. The Commission was established in June 2021 to monitor reports of grave human rights violations during Ethiopia’s two-year war in the Tigray region. Its establishment followed a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council held in March 2021.

The Commission’s latest decision was mainly influenced by the announcement by the Ethiopian government, in which it announced it was in the process of adopting an “inclusive and comprehensive” national transitional justice policy. However, human rights groups criticize this justification, stating that relying on a proposal for a transitional justice policy that has not yet been adopted is unconvincing.

Additionally, the African Commission’s decision is based on the fact that the Ethiopian government has initiated a national process to ensure accountability and redress for reported cases of human rights violations in the Tigray region. However, according to human rights groups, this reasoning fails to recognize the crucial issues of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Ethiopia, as the executive continues to interfere with judicial functions, including the frequent non-compliance of police in executing court orders.

The African Commission’s decision is also influenced by “positive developments” in the Tigray region, such as the restoration of peace and security, reconciliation, disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation. However, human rights groups argue that this assessment fails to acknowledge ongoing gross human rights violations and abuses in the Tigray region, including a continued ethnic cleansing campaign by Amhara security forces in the western Tigray zone.

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Reports by Addis Standard have repeatedly highlighted the continued displacement and human rights violations persisting in the western Tigray areas under the control of Amhara forces. Just last week, 1,436 people were displaced over the course of five days, with many seeking refuge at the Endabaguna Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Center near Shire town in the northwestern Tigray zone. AS

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