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News: UN, rights group urge Ethiopia to adopt victim-centered approach in transitional justice

Millions displaced by internal conflicts and violence in Ethiopia over recent years continue to find shelter in various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, similar to the one shown in the picture (Photo: ndependent.co.uk)

Addis Abeba – The UN Human Rights Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have released a report urging the Ethiopian government to anchor its transitional justice policies in international human rights law, prioritizing the rights and needs of victims and their families.

Spanning 90 pages, the report documents the outcomes of 15 community consultations conducted from July 2022 through March of the current year. These sessions involved over 800 individuals, 319 of whom were women, from the Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali, and Tigray regions, as well as the Dire Dawa city administration.

The collective feedback underscores the critical need for a comprehensive approach to transitional justice that encompasses criminal accountability, truth-seeking, reparations, and measures to prevent recurrence. The participants unanimously agreed on the imperative of holding perpetrators accountable for crimes, including those that violate international law, to break the cycle of violence and ensure such actions face prosecution.

Furthermore, the report stresses the need for peaceful resolution of conflicts and the safe, dignified return of internally displaced people to their homes. It also notes the community’s readiness to back the transitional justice process, contingent on the independence and integrity of the institutions involved.

“I welcome Ethiopia taking concrete steps to develop a national transitional justice policy in line with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk. “It is crucial for such efforts to be holistic and consistent with international human rights norms and standards, placing victims and affected populations, especially women and girls, at the center.”

This report builds on the 2021 joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and the EHRC in the Tigray Region, reinforcing the advocacy for a human-rights-based framework for transitional justice in line with the recommendations from the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. Both organizations have extended technical assistance to support the implementation of the policy.

To guide the development and execution of a transitional justice policy, the report offers 31 recommendations for various stakeholders, including the Ethiopian government and the Transitional Justice Working Group of Experts.

The transitional justice program was launched in Ethiopia following the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement in November 2022. Despite this progress, experts and human rights advocates have voiced concerns about the program’s effectiveness in its current implementation.

Before its disbandment, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) conveyed apprehensions about Ethiopia’s dedication to ensuring accountability. The ICHREE’s evaluations suggested that domestic initiatives might lead to a cursory process lacking in-depth international scrutiny. AS

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