Four international human rights organizations have urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to hold a special session on the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia.
In a letter, the groups asked the council to establish a robust investigative mechanism to address the matter without further delay.
The organizations are Amnesty International, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and Human Rights Watch.
The letter cites a joint report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that found evidence of widespread violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law by all parties to the conflict in Tigray, including the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, the Tigray Defense Forces, and Amhara regional special police and affiliated Fano militias.
“The report also found that many of these violations and abuses may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the letter dated November 22 reads.
“The report concluded that ‘the seriousness of these allegations calls for independent investigations and appropriate prosecution of those responsible,’ and said that an international, independent mechanism can be established to collect evidence of the atrocities in preparation for future criminal prosecution.”
The righs groups note that the report was not comprehensive hence the need for further investigations.
“OHCHR and the EHRC were unable to visit key sites of massacres, like Axum, which was previously documented and reported on by international NGOs. Moreover, the report was only mandated to investigate abuses that took place from 3 November 2020 to 28 June 2021,” they said.
According to the organizations, the conflict has spread to neighboring regions, threatening millions of civilians.
Abuses linked to the conflict, the activists say, are also taking place outside of the affected zones. Scores of ethnic Tigrayans have been arbitrarily arrested, including in Addis Ababa, in the last weeks alone.
With the situation deteriorating by the day, the groups say a special session by HRC is necessary.
“We believe that a special session on Ethiopia is essential to ensure international scrutiny of the situation and to establish a mechanism that will provide justice and accountability for victims,” the letter adds.
The organizations want the proposed investigative mechanism be mandated to report regularly to the Human Rights Council, as well as other UN decision-making bodies, and to present recommendations on the prevention of further human rights violations and abuses and ensure accountability. It should be designed to be complementary to regional efforts to address the crisis.
Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency early this month.
Authorities in Addis Ababa told citizens to prepare to defend the capital, as fighters from the northern region of Tigray threatened to march towards the city.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government for a year, has claimed significant territorial gains in recent days, along with its ally the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).