In a wide-ranging interview, Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch, has warned that attempts by the Ethiopian government to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) would, if it succeeds, set a dangerous precedent. The ICHREE was set up by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate crimes allegedly committed by all parties to the Tigray war. Following the Pretoria Agreement, the Ethiopian government has been lobbying different countries to push for the termination of the mandate of the ICHREE, which, as things stand, ends in September of 2023.
Ms Bader says that the Ethiopian government has taken a “hostile position” to the ICHREE since its inception and that it’s made attempts that are unprecedented –such as a move to de-fund the ICHREE in a New York venue, to try to terminate its mandate. She says the ICHREE investigation is one of the few attempts at delivering justice to the victims of the Tigray war and, therefore, that ending the investigation prematurely would deny victims the opportunity to get a semblance of justice. More broadly, Ms Bader warns, if countries are allowed to end the mandate of international bodies through lobbying and resolutions, a dangerous precedent will be set that will give countries the license to end the mandate of bodies whose work they do not like.
Regarding the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement, Ms Bader tells us that she has misgivings about the lack of openness of the various stakeholders. She says that the continued silence of the Tigray government is “worrying”. She laments the fact that the Ethiopian government has not allowed independent experts, such as gender experts, humanitarians, journalists and other bodies to get access to the affected areas. She says the AU and the other signatories to the agreement should have put in place a proper mechanism for monitoring, reporting and verification of progress.
In response to whether the question of justice and accountability could be brushed under the carpet in favoure of peace, she warns that justice and accountability are absolutely essential for peace and for the country to move forward. She advises all stakeholders — the Tigray government, the Ethiopian government, the AU, the US, etc — to prioritize justice and accountability.