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Ethiopia: Justice for past abuses must be victim-centred and include criminal prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking and institutional reforms – UN report

28 December 2023

A newly arrived family, who fled the violence in Ethiopia's Tigray region, sit in a former classroom at May Weyni secondary school, now hosting 10,500 displaced people as an IDP camp, in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 19, 2021. Credit:  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

GENEVA (28 December 2023) – A new report issued today by the UN Human Rights Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) calls on the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that ongoing efforts to address the country’s legacy of human rights violations and abuses are grounded in applicable international human rights law, and consistently focus on the rights and needs of victims and their families.

The 90-page report sets out findings of 15 community consultations held from July 2022 to March this year with more than 800 participants, including 319 women, in Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali and Tigray regions, and in the Dire Dawa city administration. Participants included victims, internally displaced people, people with disabilities, traditional and religious leaders, and grassroot civil society organizations.

“I welcome Ethiopia taking concrete steps to develop a national transitional justice policy in line with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk. “It is crucial for such efforts to be holistic and consistent with international human rights norms and standards, placing victims and affected populations, especially women and girls, at the centre.”

The report’s findings point to broad consensus among participants on the need to implement all components of transitional justice, equally. These encompass criminal accountability, truth-seeking, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, including effective remedies for victims, legal reforms and reconciliation.

The participants agreed that for Ethiopia to break the cycle of violence and impunity, it is essential that ongoing transitional justice processes entail criminal accountability, including for possible crimes under international law, which cannot be subject to amnesty.

The peaceful resolution of ongoing conflicts and violence and durable solutions for internally displaced people, especially their safe, voluntary and dignified return to their homes, were also seen as a priority for Ethiopia’s path towards peace, accountability and reconciliation.

In all locations, most participants stressed that they were ready to contribute meaningfully to the transitional justice process, including engaging with relevant institutions, provided that they were independent, competent and operated free of political influence or control. They offered their views on the possible institutional architecture to lead transitional justice initiatives.

The report comes two years after the UN Human Rights Office and the EHRC in November 2021 published the findings of their joint investigation in the Tigray Region, which among other measures recommended the adoption of a human-rights based, holistic and victim-centred transitional justice policy - a recommendation subsequently reflected expressly in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed in Pretoria in November 2022. Both the UN Human Rights Office and the EHRC have supported its implementation through technical and advisory assistance.

“By amplifying the experiences and voices of directly affected populations across Ethiopia, it is important that this report properly informs ongoing discussions on the development of a legitimate, holistic, genuine, and inclusive policy on transitional justice,” added Türk.

The report makes 31 recommendations to various stakeholders, including the Government of Ethiopia and the Transitional Justice Working Group of Experts, for their consideration in the design and implementation of a transitional justice policy. Civil society organizations, religious and traditional leaders, political parties, the media, development partners and the international community are also among identified actors with key roles to play in the transitional justice process.

“States have a duty to investigate and prosecute gross human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including those which amount to crimes under international law. Those who have been subjected to violations or abuses are entitled to justice, including adequate, comprehensive, prompt, and effective reparations,” said the High Commissioner.

To read the full report click here:

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

In Nairobi
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

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