Prominent civil society and human rights groups express dismay as the African Union Commission ends the investigation into the dire situation in Tigray.
The African Union Commission’s decision to end the investigation in Tigray has sparked a collective outcry among 33 civil society and human rights groups, labeling AU’s move as nothing short of “premature.”
In a display of unity, the groups released a joint statement on Thursday night through the Human Rights Watch website.
Prominent organizations within the advocacy landscape, including Amnesty International, the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) and Human Rights Watch, have all fervently called on the AU commission to reconsider its decision.
The AU justified its decision by citing the importance of the national mechanisms put in place by the Ethiopian government to address the situation in the country and ensure accountability for reported human rights abuses in Tigray.
It further proposed the need for a comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable strategy to tackle the broader national issues and implement corrective measures.
The decision comes after the Pretoria peace accord, which had successfully halted the two-year-long hostilities between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The AU had established an investigative team to probe allegations of human rights violations in Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia, in 2021. However, during its 75th Ordinary Session held in Banjul from May 3 to May 23, 2023, the AU Commission surprisingly announced the termination of the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate.
Despite recognizing the AU Commission’s efforts in establishing the Commission of Inquiry, the organizations expressed their shock and bewilderment at the decision without publishing a report on the team’s findings and recommendations.
The statement highlighted that the decision to terminate the Commission’s mandate contradicts the very rationale behind its establishment, the core principles outlined in the AU Commission Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the 2020 Rules of Procedure.
The signatories expressed their regret over the Commission’s reliance on unimplemented transitional justice policy plan as a basis for ending the mandate.
The statement emphasized that the AU Commission’s reasoning failed to recognize the critical importance of ongoing investigations and the preservation of evidence by independent entities.
These efforts are vital for ensuring eventual justice and accountability for the victims and survivors, as well as serving as integral components of comprehensive transitional justice mechanisms, according to the statement.
“The decision by the African Commission, mistakenly buys into the rhetoric provided by the Ethiopian government, a party to the conflict and accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to eschew justice and accountability,” reads the statement.
The decision comes merely four months after Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekone, explicitly called on the African Commission to halt any plans for conducting an independent investigation, disregarding ongoing national efforts. This demand was made during a speech delivered to the African Union Executive Council in February 2023.
“It continues to be inexcusable that the Commission of Inquiry did not issue a report during its two-year existence,” reads the statement, referring to the termination of the mandate as “the Commission’s abdication of its duty towards the victims and witnesses who came forward to share their pains and sufferings in the hopes that they will one day see justice and accountability.”