All the necessary initial preparations have already been finalized by the joint team from the United Nations (UN) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to kick off field investigations into the alleged human rights abuses in the Tigray region in a few weeks, The Reporter has learnt.
Daniel Bekele (PhD), Ethiopian Human Rights Commissioner, told The Reporter on Thursday that since the two rights bodies inked a joint agreement, preparations including terms of reference related to geographic scope, issues of investigation and engagement mechanisms have been completed through the joint team.
It can be recalled that in late March 2021, the EHRC and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed to conduct a joint investigation into human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by all parties involved in the ongoing conflict in Tigray.
Over six months have passed since the federal government started its law enforcement operation in Tigray region in Nov 2020, following the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) attack on the Northern command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.
According to Daniel, 12 investigators, six from each institution were selected and started to organize methodological approaches and logistical strategies. They have since conducted a desk review that would allow them for an immediate investigation in selected areas where human rights’ abuses are believed to have been committed.
Along with the twelve investigating members, there are other unspecified legal, gender, security, and translation officers to be deployed in the investigation.
However, the commissioner, underscoring the benefit of independence and integrity of the investigation, refused to specify inquiry areas and the sizes of the spots to be covered during the investigation.
Daniel, noting the three-month preliminary period, said there is a possibility of extending areas of inquiry up to neighboring nation Sudan, which is one of the destinations for the thousands of migrants who fled the conflict.
Earlier in March 2021, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat had discussed the modalities of engagement of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights ((ACHPR) in the investigation of alleged human rights violations in Tigray region with deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonnen.
However, Daniel said the commission has not received any expression of interest from the ACHPR to participate in the investigation.
It can be recalled that the EHRC had publicized its independent investigation into a massacre, where it concluded that an atrocious massacre of civilians was committed by an informal group of Tigrayan youth known as ‘Samri’, aided by the then members of the local administration and security establishment in Maikadra, in Tigray Region’s Western Zone, on November 9th, 2020.
Similarly, the commission disclosed another independent investigation into the Aksum city massacre, carried out from February 27 to March 5, 2021, and announced grave human rights violations.
Meanwhile, a government-sponsored investigation into alleged atrocities in multiple areas of Tigray region is underway, conducted by the Federal Attorney General and the Federal Police.
Earlier this week, the Office of the Attorney General released a preliminary and incomplete investigation result of atrocities in Aksum City.
According to the first phase of investigations, the result revealed that 93 individuals were killed due to the fighting between the TPLF forces engaging with Eritrean forces, and six other civilians were also killed in a faulty cannon attack during a government operation.