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The Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998-2000)

Sean D. Murphy

Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law
George Washington University
Member, U.N. International Law Commission

forthcoming in International Law and the Use of Force: A Case-Based Approach (Oxford University Press, Olivier Corten &Tom Ruys, eds.)

An Eritrean soldier carries his rifle and teapot as the Eritrean army begins to pull out from the frontline near Senafe on February 17, 2001. Both Eritrean and Ethiopian forces are pulling back from frontline positions to create a 25km wide, temporary security zone. This will be controlled by 4000 UN peacekeepers while the disputed border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is demarcated by an international border commission. The establishment of the buffer zone is an important step in bringing an end to the war fought by Eritrea and Ethiopia from May 1998 until June 2000.
  1. Facts and context

The Eritrean-Ethiopian War of 1998-2000 was a tragic conflict that resulted in a widespread loss of life, as well as other injury and damage, for these two developing countries in the Horn of Africa. A unique feature of this incident is that the December 2000 Algiers agreement ending the conflict provided for the establishment of an Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (claims commission), charged with deciding claims for loss, damage or injury resulting from a violation of international law committed by either country. One of Ethiopia’s claims was that Eritrea initiated the armed conflict by an illegal use of force. Thus, the facts and legal positions advanced by the two sides were formally litigated before, and decided by, a five-member arbitral commission of arbitrators of third-country nationalities, which concluded that Eritrea’s conduct at the outbreak of the armed conflict constituted a violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.1   .

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