Commission to investigate latest mass killings in western Oromia
UN investigators say they have secured a positive response from the government of Ethiopia to investigate atrocities committed in Northern part of the country.
Established by the UNHRC in December 2021 to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights laws during the Tigray war, experts of the International Commission of Human Rights on Ethiopia are set to travel to Ethiopia, following the Ethiopian government’s positive response for the commission’s request for access.
“We are hopeful that the consultations in Addis Ababa will result in access for our investigators to sites of violations to be identified, and to survivors, victims and witnesses,” stated Kaari Betty Murungi, a Kenyan who is a member of the Commission, during a press briefing in Geneva on June 30, 2022, adding “Finally, we hope to hold initial discussions regarding transitional justice, national reconciliation and healing, as required under our mandate.”
Ethiopia rejected the commission from the start of its inception and even requested the UN not to allocate budget for the commission, a request that was vetoed in March 2022. Officials of the Ethiopian government argued the Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) report is sufficient and no further investigation is necessitated.
But since May 2022, the Ethiopian government changed its strict stance and begun communicating positively with the investigation commission, members of the commission said. In May 2022, the Commission met with the Minister of Justice and senior officials of Ethiopia in Geneva, according to them.
During the meeting and in a subsequent formal note to the Ethiopian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the commission requested access to Ethiopia.
“The Ethiopian government has responded to our request to visit Addis Ababa positively to continue the May dialogue with a view to agree on modalities for cooperation with the commission,” read the statement.
In a reply to the Commission’s report Zenebe Kebebe, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN in Geneva, said that “the country is now turning a page.
“The Government of Ethiopia has decided to seek a peaceful end to the conflict. An inclusive national dialogue is launched to address political problems across the country. The government has taken numerous confidence building measures,” he said.
If the discussion in Addis Ababa goes well, the commission will get access to all areas, survivors and documents related to the year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia. It will also use JTI’s initial report as a launching pad.
The JTI reported all parties related to the conflict, including Ethiopian defense forces, Tigray forces, Eritrean forces and Amhara militias committed atrocities. The commission has already requested both the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission for access to related materials in their custody.
The Commission has been engaging with a wide range of interlocutors, including with victims and first-hand witnesses, following international best practices used by other UN commissions of inquiry, according to the statement.
This indicates the Ethiopian government is ready to accept the consequences that might follow the investigation.
The commission is also investigating the latest mass killings in western Oromia, according to its members, who want to appeal to member states for technical (including individuals with relevant expertise), logistical and financial support to make this reality.
“The most recent events in Western Oromia, clearly fall within the mandate of the Commission and require immediate, urgent and thorough investigations, yet we lack the capacity to do so.,” read the statement.