Human rights abuses are still being committed in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region more than 10 months after a ceasefire formally ended the bloody civil war, according to a group of UN experts.
The latest report by the UN’s International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia said the nation’s government was failing to protect its citizens from “grave and ongoing” human rights abuses being committed by militias and Eritrean troops, who fought alongside Ethiopia’s federal military and remain in border areas of Tigray.
These human rights abuses include sexual and gender-based violence “abetted or tolerated” by the Ethiopian government, according to the report, which was released on Monday.
It said a “transitional justice” process initiated by Ethiopia’s government did not meet international standards and expressed alarm over recent increases in violence in Oromia and Amhara, Ethiopia’s two most populous regions.
The failure to implement a meaningful justice process was fostering a culture of impunity and heightening the risk of future atrocities, said the experts, who noted rising online hate speech in Ethiopia against ethnic and political groups and LGBT people.
“The conflict in Tigray, still not resolved in any comprehensive peace, continues to produce misery,” the report said.
“Equally alarming, hostilities in Ethiopia are now at a national scale, with significant violations particularly in [the] Amhara region, but also ongoing in Oromia and elsewhere.
“The risk to the state, as well as regional stability and the enjoyment of human rights in east Africa, cannot be overstated,” it said.
The conflict in Tigray, which erupted in November 2020 and spilled over into other regions of Ethiopia, was one of the bloodiest of recent times. It is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people and was characterised by massacres and rape.
About 5.4 million of Tigray’s population of 6 million still rely on humanitarian assistance, although food aid to the war-battered region has been paused since mid-March, after the uncovering of a huge, nationwide scheme by officials to steal donated grain. Food aid to the whole of Ethiopia has been on hold since June.
A previous report by the UN human rights body found that all sides had committed violations during the war, many of them amounting to war crimes. It also concluded that the government had used hunger as a weapon.
An Ethiopian government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the latest report. Ethiopian officials have previously denounced the UN commission as politically motivated, blocked its investigators and tried to defund it.
The commission’s mandate expires in December. It is not clear whether the UN Human Rights Council will renew it for another year during its current session, which lasts until 6 October.
The US and EU suspended aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Ethiopia during the war, citing human rights violations. They said accountability for these crimes was a precondition for restoring this support and normalising relations.
The US also imposed sanctions on individuals involved in abuses, which were renewed by President Joe Biden this month.
However, there are fears that EU officials may drop their demands for accountability and not call for the renewal of the UN human rights commission. The bloc is keen to shore up diplomatic relations with Ethiopia after the Ukraine war reignited a scramble for influence in Africa between Russia and the west.