In October 2023, as the U.N. Human Rights Council was concluding its autumn session, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (the Commission of Experts), an ad-hoc body established to investigate allegations of human rights violations and support accountability efforts in Ethiopia, published the final report before its mandate ceased.
The Commission of Experts emphasized the gravity of crimes that have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Ethiopia since November 3, 2020, and their implications for future peace and stability. As it found, “The Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, regional forces and affiliated militias perpetrated violations and abuses in Tigray on a staggering scale. These included mass killings, widespread and systematic rape and sexual violence, including sexualized slavery, against women and girls, deliberate starvation, forced displacement, and large-scale arbitrary detentions.
These amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” It further added that “Tigray fighters and allied militias also committed severe violations and abuses against civilians in Amhara and Afar regions, including killings, widespread rape and sexual violence, destruction of property and looting, also amounting to war crimes. In Oromia, the Commission uncovered ongoing patterns by Government forces of arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture of civilians, in particular men and boys, accused of links with non-state armed group the Oromo Liberation Army. Extrajudicial killings of civilians are accompanied by impunity, while sexual violence against women and girls continues but is seriously underreported.”
The Commission of Experts confirmed that many of these violations are ongoing, and this despite the ceasefire agreed in November 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. It found that “Eritrean troops and Amhara forces and militia members continue to commit grave violations in Tigray, including rape and sexual violence of women and girls.” The Commission also found the “continued forced expulsion of Tigrayans from Western Tigray, with tens of thousands of women, men, and children unable to return to their homes. Beyond Tigray, other parts of Ethiopia are seeing violence and instability. The Commission is receiving regular reports of armed clashes between Government forces and Amhara armed groups, including fano militia, in the context of the state of emergency announced on August 4, 2023, in particular around Gondar, Gojjam, and North Shewa Zone, but with incidents reported in all zones of Amhara.” The Commission further indicated that “in Oromia, notably Western Oromia, the Commission has confirmed the use of airstrikes, in particular drone strikes, as part of the counter-insurgency strategy against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).”
In another report, published in September 2023, the Commission clearly stated that “further investigation is warranted into ongoing violations and other risks of future atrocity crimes. This includes the situation in Amhara, Oromia, and Western Tigray as well as reports of violations by the Eritrean Defense Forces in other areas of Tigray. Additional investigations into command and superior structures, including intent, in relation to the conflict since November 3, 2020, are also required.”