Ethiopia conflict at a 'national scale': UN experts

AFP , AP , Monday 18 Sep 2023

Serious violations are continuing in Ethiopia despite a peace deal in the north, UN rights experts said Monday, warning the conflict was spreading across the country and putting regional stability at risk.

File Photo - Members of the Amhara militia, which fight alongside federal and regional forces against the northern region of Tigray, ride on the back of a truck. AFP


The United Nations-backed investigators cautioned in a statement that "atrocities, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are still being committed in the country".

This comes despite the November 2022 peace deal between Ethiopia's federal government and rebels in the Tigray region, which ostensibly ended a devastating two-year conflict.

"While the signing of the agreement may have mostly silenced the guns, it has not resolved the conflict in the north of the country, in particular in Tigray," said Mohamed Chande Othman, head of the UN-backed Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

"Nor has it brought about any comprehensive peace," he told reporters, presenting the commission's latest report.

The report confirmed that Eritrean troops and Amhara militia members were continuing to commit grave violations in Tigray, "including the systematic rape and sexual violence of women and girls", the statement said.

"It is hard to overstate the gravity of the violence, which has taken place in Ethiopia," Othman said.

Equally alarming, the report said, is that "hostilities in Ethiopia are now at a national scale, with significant violations increasing particularly in Amhara region, but also ongoing in Oromia and elsewhere".

In a number of regions, "ongoing patterns of violations, entrenched impunity, and increasing securitization of the state bear hallmarked risks of further atrocities and crimes", Othman said.

The commission said it had uncovered ongoing patterns by government forces of arrest, detention, and torture of civilians in Oromia.

It said it was already receiving numerous credible reports of violations against Amhara civilians since the announcement of a state of emergency last month.

"The risk to the state as well as regional stability and the enjoyment of human rights in East Africa cannot be overstated," the report said.

Commissioner Radhika Coomaraswamy said the presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia showed not only "an entrenched policy of impunity, but also continued support for and tolerance of such violations by the federal government.”

“Entire families have been killed, relatives forced to watch horrific crimes against their loved ones, while whole communities have been displaced or expelled from their homes," she said.

Citing consolidated estimates from seven health centers in Tigray alone, the commission said more than 10,000 survivors of sexual violence sought care between the start of the conflict and July this year.

But accountability, and trust in the justice system in Ethiopia, have been lacking.

The commission said it knows of only 13 completed and 16 pending military court cases addressing sexual violence committed during the conflict.

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