Impunity- a plague for human rights protection in Ethiopia

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Yonas Mebrahtu/Germany


On April 18, 2017, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the rubber-stamp institution backed and sponsored by the Ethiopian Government, has released a report on Ethiopian protest started since the late of 2015. According to this latest report, 669 people have been killed and close to 1000 people are injured during the Anti-government protest in Ethiopia since August 2016.Though the commission admitted that the protesters in Oromia, some parts of Amhara and Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region had a legitimate cause, the reaction from the security forces, it insolently stated, that took the life of hundreds, were mostly proportional, lawful and necessary.  Similarly, in June 2016, the commission in its first  oral report to the Ethiopian parliament has contentiously described the measures taken by the security forces as proportional in a clear contrast to the hitherto Report by Human rights watch that condemned the excessive use of force by the police and caused the death more than 400 people. In an effrontery claim, the Commission blame opposition political groups both in Ethiopia and abroad such as Oromo Federalist Congress, Oromo Liberation front(OLF),  and, the Oromia Media Network- (foreign-based Media outlet) for the public demonstrations in Oromia region and the casualties thereafter.

Ab ovo, the credibility, and reliability of the reports from the Ethiopian Human Human rights commission are questionable due to its poor track record and its extreme allegiance to the government, which eventually plagued its impartiality. In a stark contrast to the report by the Ethiopian human rights commission, the number of death toll and other casualties  during the protest, which still continues under the smokescreen of a state of Emergency, is by far higher than the stated number (669) according to various ocular evidence and credible reports from international human rights institutions. Abysmally, the commission has implicitly denied other allegations such as torture, harassment, arbitrary arrest and other grave and systematic  human rights violations committed during the protest.


Recently, in an interview with BBC, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has blatantly rejected the proposal for international inquiry by UN and EU alleging that Ethiopia has an independent institution although the independence and impartiality of the Ethiopian Human rights commission has long before contested. In several occasions, including the well documented  Gambella massacre of 2003 & 2004 and the war crime in Somali regional state, the commission has failed to investigate the allegations impartially. So far Ethiopia has never been accused under international forum nor has been prosecuted her official in the international criminal tribunal for serious crimes. In an unsuccessful attempt, the indictment  by Anuak Justice Council against the Ethiopian Government before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights on Gambella case rendered inadmissible due to the requirement of exhaustion of local remedy and Ethiopian government’s claim to investigate the matter domestically. Nevertheless, so far no comprehensive investigation on Gambella case has been conducted nor have been prosecuted perpetrators properly in local courts. The culture of impunity posed a perverted challenge on human right protection in Ethiopia.


Provided that ensuring the protection and promotion of Human rights is one of the most important mandates of the United Nations by virtue of the UN Charter and of the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia, I hereby call the UN   to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to open the door for the international inquiry on the protest. Particularly the UN human rights council shall appoint a ‘Special rapporteur on Ethiopia’ mandated with investigation and examination of the human rights violations committed during the Ethiopian protest. Nothing can justify the establishment of special rapporteur by the UN except the horrendous situation and gross and systematic human rights violation akin to crimes against humanity committed in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s membership to the Security Council as well as to the Human Rights Council is at odd with the raison d’être of the UN Charter and of the UN itself.


Ethiopia as a party to various human rights instruments (ICCPR.ICESCR and CAT) entailed an obligation to respect and protect human rights including investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in Ethiopia. Yet the government has explicitly and repeatedly failed to discharge its obligation and refused to cooperate with international human rights bodies. Encouraged by the silence of the international community, the government continues to commit serious crimes that fall under the Rome statute with impunity. By doing so, Ethiopia remains unwilling and in fact unable to prosecute criminals in domestic court. It is, therefore, timely and urgent for the Security Council, as mandated by the Rome statute, to pass a resolution to set a motion on the prosecution of dictators of the Ethiopian government before the international criminal court.


Last, as an appeal to Ethiopians, the dire situation in Ethiopia is compelling for Ethiopians inside and abroad to cooperate and put pressure on UN and EU to take strong measures against the Ethiopian government. Using their intellectual clout, Ethiopians in diasporas, in particular,  are expected to play a decisive role in this regard, provided that willing to reconcile their paltry differences. Moreover, they can support and cooperate with non-governmental organizations the likes of Anuak Justice Council to bring allegations before international Human rights bodies.

April 2017



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