Rights groups ‘shocked’ by AU move to scrap Ethiopia abuse probeThu, 24 Aug 2023 15:33:20 GMT

Amnesty International said Thursday that rights campaigners were stunned by a decision by the African Union’s rights commission to scrap its investigation into abuses committed in Ethiopia’s war-scarred Tigray.In a tweet, it said 33 civil society groups were “shocked” after the panel terminated the inquiry, yet had not published a report on its findings or recommendations.”The decision also sets a detrimental precedent for future investigative mandates into human rights violations across the continent,” Amnesty said.The post on X, formerly Twitter, trailed a letter dated Wednesday by 33 organisations including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.They allege the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights “may have succumbed to undue political pressure from the Ethiopian government”.The two-year conflict between the federal government and Tigrayan rebels was marked by allegations of massacres, mass rapes and other atrocities by all sides, including Ethiopia’s ally Eritrea.The horrific reports prompted the AU commission and the UN Human Rights Council to order separate probes into the abuses in 2021.But Ethiopia has repeatedly rejected international efforts to investigate the atrocities.It has warned that inquiries could undermine the progress of a peace agreement signed in November 2022 and pointed to its own “transitional justice” process, which has not yet begun.”It is disappointing that the African Commission, in its decision to terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, relied on a transitional justice policy proposal that is yet to be adopted,” the rights campaigners said in their letter.The AU-brokered peace deal called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Ethiopia, but Eritrea was not a party to the agreement and its troops continue to be present in Tigray, where residents accuse them of abuses.”We believe that the African Commission’s decision 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,” the letter said. The campaigners urged the rights commission, which is based in The Gambia, to “promptly reconsider its decision to terminate the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and ensure that its mandate concludes, at least, with a report of its findings and recommendations”.Tigray suffered from dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines during the conflict. Some basic services have resumed to the region of six million people since the signing of the peace agreement. But media access remains restricted and it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground.