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Tigray Government Statement on the Visit of the International Commission of Human Rights  Experts on Ethiopia to Addis Ababa 



Since the start of the genocidal war on Tigray, the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies as well as allied  Amhara regional forces have committed heinous atrocities against the people of Tigray.  Understandably, these genocidal forces have strenuously resisted calls for independent  investigations into their conduct. By contrast, the Government of Tigray has always called for an  independent investigation to be conducted by an impartial international entity. Following a deeply  flawed investigation conducted jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Human Rights Council  established the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (Henceforth, the  Commission) to conduct what was billed as a credible independent investigation into any and all  atrocities committed in Tigray and elsewhere.  

In contrast to the Abiy regime’s contempt for the Commission, the Government of Tigray has  repeatedly expressed its acceptance of the Commission’s mandate and legitimacy. However, there  are signs that the integrity of the Commission’s work is in grave danger of being compromised.  

To start with, transparency is critical for the success of independent investigations. The timely and  adequate transmission of information to the relevant stakeholders is vital for maintaining  investigative integrity. Still, some degree of secrecy in investigating war crimes and crimes against  humanity is necessary. But maintaining a veil of secrecy only when it comes to the victims while  treating the victimizer as an indispensable interlocutor risks undermining the Commission’s  impartiality and, ipso facto, the credibility of the investigative process and associated findings.  

 Following the conclusion of its visit to Addis Ababa from July 25 to July 30, 2022, the  Commission issued a statement on August 2, 2022, indicating that its discussion with Ethiopian  authorities was an extension of prior discussions it had with them in Geneva. Keeping open  channels of communication with the party—the Abiy regime—implicated in the perpetration of  heinous atrocities, while turning a deaf ear to the interests of the victim—the people of Tigray— can only guarantee the entrenchment of impunity. By intentionally eschewing meaningful  communications with the Government of Tigray, the Commission is on the verge of sacrificing its  impartiality. Generally, any attempt to set up a framework for the investigation that treats Tigray  as a marginal stakeholder is a step in the wrong direction and therefore unacceptable.  

The Government of Tigray is of the firm belief that a course correction on the part of the  Commission is necessary to maintain the perception and reality of its impartiality. Ensuring justice  for the countless victims of the invaders’ genocidal campaign requires a thorough, credible, and  expeditious investigation. The Commission should not allow the Abiy regime to hijack its work  as it seeks to whitewash its atrocities, engage in victim-blaming and present itself as the dispenser  of justice and accountability. Since the Ethiopian state is implicated in the perpetration of heinous  atrocities against the people of Tigray, the Commission must refrain from establishing any contacts  with the Abiy regime in ways that might be prejudicial to the Commission’s work. The  Commission should simply demand unrestricted access to various suspected sites of atrocities and  be allowed to fulfill its mission without interference.  

The proper documentation of key evidence, including the preservation of forensic evidence, is also  critical for effective investigations. In this regard, it is profoundly dismaying that the UN Human  Rights Council in general and the Commission in particular have turned a blind eye and deaf ears  to the illegal and morally repugnant exhumation by the authorities in Amhara region of the remains  of Tigrayans mass-murdered by Amhara forces in Western Tigray. Indeed, the Commission’s  deafening silence extends to ongoing violations of basic human rights in Tigray. For instance,  unable to subdue the people of Tigray by force, the Abiy regime along with its domestic and  foreign allies has imposed a deadly blockade on Tigray, engineering a colossal humanitarian crisis.  Even though the Human Rights Council has recognized the importance of proactively preventing  rights violations, the deafening silence of the Commission in the face of the inhumane siege of  Tigray is problematic. Thus, the Commission must call for the immediate lifting of the blockade  on Tigray and call for unfettered humanitarian access, thereby preserving the right to life. The  Commission’s work should not simply be limited to ensuring retrospective accountability.  

Most puzzlingly, the Commission has provided a deadline for citizens to provide evidence of  crimes via the Internet. That the Commission appears to be oblivious of the total communications  blackout in Tigray indicates a lack of appreciation for the magnitude of the suffering in Tigray.  The Abiy regime understandably believes that granting independent investigators and journalists  access to Tigray would puncture its self-glorifying, self-absolving and victim-blaming narratives.  Furthermore, it is deeply troubling that the Commission also “hopes” for access to crime locations  rather than demand that it be granted access. The deliberate obstruction of a dully constituted  international investigative body by the Abiy regime should be treated as an admission of guilt.  Bending over backwards to accommodate a regime accused of ongoing violations of human rights  is, in effect, complicity in the perpetuation of injustice.  

All the same, the Government of Tigray remains committed to cooperating with the Commission.  But absent necessary course corrections by the Commission and tangible steps to reassure us of its  impartiality and independence, cooperation for the sake of cooperation would simply be an  unjustifiable expenditure of time and resources. For that reason, the Government of Tigray  strongly urges the Commission to treat the people and Government of Tigray as essential  interlocutors in its investigative journey. 


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