A commission investigating atrocities in Tigray is angling to take control of Ethiopia’s transitional justice process, officials from the interim administration in the region said.
Leaders of the Tigray Interim Administration demanded the national initiative led by the Justice Ministry should instead be spearheaded from the region.
The demand comes as authorities face mounting pressure from international bodies and rights groups to deliver true transitional justice for lasting peace in Tigray, and ensure accountability for abuses.
Yemane Zeray (PhD), the head of the commission investigating atrocities in Tigray says the regional body should lead Ethiopia’s transitional justice process.
“We want more than participation. It has to be led from Tigray,” said Yemane.
Yemane told The Reporter the federal and international actors could still be represented. “This should be part of the political dialogue,” he added.
The commission has expressed its concerns to Ethiopia’s Justice Minister Gedion Timotwos (Ph.D) and the EHRC Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele.
Its primary demand is that the federal government investigate Tigray separately, Yemane said.
“Our first position is the federal government must probe the Tigray issue as a separate case,” said Yemane, adding Addis Ababa could also investigate similar crimes in other regions separately.
“You cannot lump everything together and overlook the grave crimes as if nothing happened. Otherwise, the mandate should come to the region,” Yemane explained.
Another concern is ensuring accountability for international actors involved in the war, says Yemane.
The conflict was the result of both internal and external interests, and saw extraordinary scenarios unfold, the director claims.
“France and China, countries with differing ideologies, armed Ethiopia during the Tigray war. The UAE and Iran, who are on opposite sides in the Middle East, both supplied drones,” he explained.
Yemane alleges the Somali government provided thousands of troops who played a key role in destroying religious and cultural sites in Axum. “Eritrean forces continue committing horrific crimes in Tigray,” he added.
So far the Ministry and Commission are working separately, Yemane said.
“In all federal and international activities, Tigray is not represented. Tigray has no representative in the Justice Ministry’s transitional justice initiative,” he stated. “It is Tigray that should be at the center.”
The national initiative, currently drafting policy, will cover violations during the northern Ethiopian war and further back – potentially starting in 2018, 1991 or earlier, experts say.
Once policy is crafted, evidence gathering will begin.