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Tigray Government Statement on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’  Statement During the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council  



The people and Government of Tigray are grateful to the UN High Commissioner for Human  Rights, Michelle Bachelet, for highlighting the litany of atrocities that have been committed  against the people of Tigray. First, the Abiy regime has been raining aerial bombs on civilians and  civilian installations across Tigray since mid-October, killing hundreds of innocent civilians and  wounding hundreds more. Second, tens of thousands of Tigrayans have been rounded up  throughout Ethiopia and are being held under cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions, in a clear  contravention of the Ethiopian constitution and international law, including the International  Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Finally, the humanitarian situation in Tigray is  indescribably bleak due to the Abiy regime’s all-encompassing blockade of Tigray.  

Be that as it may, the Government of Tigray would like to highlight some issues where some of  the High Commissioner’s statements, taken as a whole, might reinforce the barrage of pre packaged talking points and propaganda coming from the Abiy regime and its allies.  

First, the High Commissioner cites Afar and Amhara regional authorities’ assessment about the  number of students affected by the destruction of schools. This verbatim citation could be  construed as supporting the claim that the High Commissioner is implicitly accusing Tigrayan  forces of causing the destruction of schools and health facilities without conducting a transparent  and independent investigations upon which such a claim should be based. The ability of  investigators from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to observe  conditions on the ground in Amhara and Afar regions, as the High Commissioner’s statement  makes clear, also stands in direct contrast to Tigray, which has been rendered totally inaccessible  by the Abiy regime’s all-encompassing and deadly siege of Tigray.  

Perplexingly, the High Commissioner did not mention the near-total destruction of health and  school facilities across Tigray, the critical shortage of life-saving medical supplies that has claimed  the lives of thousands of Tigrayans, and the fact that schools across Tigray have been shuttered  for over 2 years now. In fact, even if schools reopen, the chances of students showing up are slim to none given the dire humanitarian condition in Tigray, which has seen virtually every Tigrayan  exposed to extreme hardship on account of the suspension of banking services, non-payment of  salary for over 8 months now, and meager humanitarian aid.  

Second, while the people and Government of Tigray are grateful to the High Commissioner for  highlighting the dire humanitarian situation in Tigray, we note with profound concern the  dangerously erroneous explanation she provided for the suspension of humanitarian aid delivery  into Tigray. The High Commissioner claims that fighting in Abala and its environs was to be  blamed for the obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery into Tigray. This explanation, such as it  is, is wrong on multiple levels.  

To begin with, there is no ongoing fighting at the moment. Second, insofar as there was brief  fighting between Tigrayan forces and an assortment of irregulars in the area, including Afar special  forces and Eritrean mercenaries, that had been crossing over into Tigrayan territories and  launching attacks, it was one that was imposed on us as Tigray’s army had to respond to their  repeated cross-border attacks inside Tigray. After being subjected to multiple provocative attacks  by these forces, Tigray’s Army took limited measures to degrade their capabilities and ensure the  security of the people of Tigray. At no time before, during or after the fighting have aid trucks  been prevented from passing through into Tigray by Tigray forces. The fact is that the authorities  had not completed the issuance of clearance for the movement of trucks transiting to Tigray by the  time fighting broke out in late January.  

Indeed, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated that no  humanitarian supplies have been delivered to Tigray by road since mid-December, when there  were no active hostilities in the area. Furthermore, no humanitarian workers have also been cleared  to travel by road from Semera to Mekelle since October 28, 2021, clearly establishing the Abiy  regime’s obstructive intent. In fact, the UN relief chief, Martin Griffiths, had as far back as  September accused the Abiy regime of erecting “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade,” strongly  demanding to “get those trucks moving.”  

The humanitarian situation in Tigray has gotten progressively worse since Mr. Griffiths made the  above claims, as the Abiy regime continues to tighten a deadly chokehold on Tigray. According  to aid agencies, 100 trucks carrying food, non-food items and fuel must enter Tigray daily to  address the vast scale of humanitarian needs. Accordingly, from July 12 through the present, about  24,000 trucks carrying supplies should have arrived in Tigray. In reality, only 1339 trucks have  arrived, representing a measly 6 percent of the trucks needed—a shocking display of inhumanity  in the face of a devastating humanitarian calamity.  

Although the Abiy regime has recently taken modest steps to enhance humanitarian operations in  Tigray by allowing additional UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights to Mekelle, the  supplies brought in are far from enough to meet Tigray’s massive humanitarian needs. The WHO,  ICRC and other partners have transported critical medical supplies and food items to Mekelle.  However, the quantity brought in so vanishingly small that it won’t make a dent in Tigray’s 

catastrophic medical and humanitarian emergency. In fact, only 210 metric tons of medical and  nutrition supplies have arrived since mid-December. To put it in perspective, 200 metric tons  translate into no more than 5 truckloads of supplies. However, Tigray needs at least 700 truckloads  of humanitarian supplies per week.  

If the Abiy regime and its domestic allies believe their own manufactured explanations, there is a  solution: allow unfettered UNHAS flights to Tigray with expanded cargo capacity.  

Finally, the High Commissioner also praises the Abiy regime for trying to “implement” the  recommendations of the deeply flawed report issued jointly by the OHCHR and the Ethiopian  Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The Ethiopian regime, the chief architect of the genocidal  war on Tigray, cannot investigate itself without making a mockery of the whole concept of  accountability and justice for victims. The crimes committed against the people of Tigray are  staggering in their geographical scope, viciousness, and organization. Given the systematic nature  of the crimes and the fact that no corner of Tigray has been spared from the long arm of the  genocidaires, the regime cannot be a credible agent of justice for the victims. The atrocities  committed in Tigray cannot be attributed to so-called ‘bad apples’ in the military; the Eritrean and  Ethiopian militaries as institutions are knee-deep in the genocide on Tigray. Accordingly, a state  implicated in the commission of heinous crimes can never be an impartial administrator of justice  vis-à-vis those crimes.  

The Government of Tigray has always stated that only an independent investigation by an impartial  international body can get to the bottom of all atrocities committed since the start of the genocidal  war on Tigray. However, the Abiy regime has opposed an independent investigation at every turn,  concerned that it would shed light on the unimaginable atrocities its forces committed and continue  to commit against the people of Tigray. Sadly, the High Commissioner does not even exhort the  regime to accept the legitimacy of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on  Ethiopia, established pursuant to Resolution S-33/1 by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  on December 17, 2021.  

In strenuously objecting to the aforementioned Commission, the Abiy regime refers to the joint  OHCHR-EHRC investigation, arguing that the issue of atrocities committed in Tigray is now  closed. The involvement of the EHRC had, of course, enabled the regime to manipulate the  investigative process and its final report, gravely undermining its credibility.  

In light of the Abiy regime’s extreme aversion to any process over which it cannot have a final say  and desire to smear the Government of Tigray and Tigray forces, it will not voluntarily accept the  legitimacy and mandate of the independent commission. In fact, there are credible reports that the  regime has presented two conditions for cooperating with the work of the Commission. The first  condition is the UNHRC’s acceptance of the OHCHR-EHRC report, lock, stock and barrel. Once  the results of the joint report are taken as final, what is left is, of course, the ‘implementation’ of  the recommendations, over which the Abiy regime has unlimited sway. The second condition is  that the UNHRC agrees to undertake a joint investigation with the EHRC into allegations of rights violations in Amhara and Afar regions. Stated differently, the Abiy regime is looking for a  mechanism to legitimize and cement its fictitious narratives about the genocidal war on Tigray,  whitewash its criminal record, evade accountability, and secure international imprimatur for its  smear campaign against Tigray forces. Suffice to say that the Abiy regime’s conditions are  nonstarters so far as the people and Government of Tigray are concerned. The UNHRC accepting  such conditions would render null and void its own resolution establishing an independent  Commission.  

We urge the international community to deploy a robust package of punitive actions or the credible  threat of one to compel it to accept the legitimacy and mandate of the International Commission  of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, come to the negotiating table, facilitate unobstructed  humanitarian delivery into Tigray and end the cruel blockade of Tigray. At a time when the world  is rightly gripped by Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine, the international community should not  continue to turn a deaf ear to the agonizing pleas of Tigrayans for help. 

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