A pig and a chicken opened a breakfast shop together, and their specialty was bacon and eggs. What is the difference between chicken and pig? The chicken participated, but the pig participated. For chickens, laying a few eggs is just an easy day’s work. But for the pig, providing bacon is his lifelong promise.
This famous business parable may be the result of a joint investigation by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on “suspicion of violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law committed by all parties to the conflict in the Tigray region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. “.
Like the chicken, the UN Human Rights Office was only “involved” in this investigation. It has a lot of gains-by seeming to be doing something to bring justice to the victims of the bloody conflict-but nothing is lost. On the other hand, EHRC is truly committed. After all, although it is a legally “autonomous” federal agency, the EHRC is part of the Ethiopian government-its existence depends on federal funds, and its commissioners share a common vision with the Ethiopian government. In other words, for EHRC, defending the Ethiopian government in this investigation is undoubtedly a lifetime commitment.
Because of this view, many people in Ethiopia and abroad—especially those who do not believe the Ethiopian government’s narrative about the war—were opposed to the UN’s decision to involve the EHRC in its investigation of the Ethiopian war from the very beginning. In response to the question of why it chose to cooperate with the EHRC in Tigray, OHCHR agreed to this arrangement because it is the only way for its investigators to enter Ethiopia and assess the situation on the ground.
However, this argument did not alleviate people’s concerns. People naturally question the purpose of an atrocity investigation under the conditions set by the alleged perpetrator and with the help of him. Some even argued that the investigation involving the EHRC was nothing more than a whitewashing activity against the Ethiopian government. Critics point to reliable reports of systemic violence, hunger, mass looting, and infrastructure destruction from Tigray. Critics say that investigations involving EHRC will not be able to obtain uncensored testimony from victims who are afraid of government reprisals. So it is impossible to even get close to determining the truth, let alone naming the perpetrators.
Joint Investigation Report Sadly, it was published on November 3 and proved that its critics were correct.
The report inevitably found evidence of serious abuse, some of which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, it has not even come close to revealing the full extent of the destruction that the Tigray people have suffered at the hands of the Ethiopian government forces and their allies since November last year.
The report talks about “extrajudicial executions, widespread sexual violence, torture, forced displacement, arbitrary detention, violations of economic, social and cultural rights, and denial of assistance”, but to a large extent no specific details have been determined, and the details of these crimes The scope is wide.
The report is unable to discuss in detail and definitively that there is an obvious reason behind the alleged atrocities committed in Tigray: The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), despite the participation of the EHRC, cannot enter its claimed geographic area to cover most crimes and most crimes. The place where the behavior occurred.
In fact, due to the “challenges and restrictions” described in the report, JIT cannot enter most atrocity zones. Therefore, it did not consider all information from areas such as Axum, Abiadi, Hagar Selam, Togoga, Irob, Adwa, Adigrat, Hasen, Gijet, and Mariamdengrat. A credible report of atrocities.
Even in areas where JIT can enter, the victims are reluctant to speak-they do not believe in the impartiality of the investigation team, and worry that if they mention crimes committed by the government against them, they may be retaliated by the government EHRC personnel.
In fact, the report itself mentioned that as one of the challenges faced by JIT in collecting evidence, “the prejudiced perception of EHRC in certain areas of Tigray”. The report went on to explain that “because of the presence of EHRC personnel, some potential interviewees refused to be interviewed by JIT”.
In addition, the extensive interviews conducted by UN officials with Tigray refugees in Sudanese refugee camps from November to December 2020 were not included in the final UN/EHRC report. The United Nations mentioned these interviews in its routine regional updates, but so far it has not explained why it decided to exclude these important testimonies from the UN/EHRC report.
The United Nations did not visit all areas of atrocities, did not interview a large number of victims from different places, and did not include the testimony of Tigray refugees in Sudanese camps in the final report, which violated the basic principle of victim-centric investigations of abuse and atrocities .
The main goal of an independent investigation of atrocities should be to find out the truth about what happened, to give victims a voice, to create conditions for the perpetrators to be held accountable, and to end impunity.
However, the UN/EHRC investigation of human rights violations in Tigray did not achieve these goals. Not only did it fail to let most of the victims of the conflict express their opinions, but it also took responsibility for the Ethiopian government’s evasion of the atrocities committed by its troops and allies in Tigray.
In fact, the UN/EHRC final report calls for cessation of hostilities, reconciliation, and capacity building more than the paragraphs that call for accountability, accountability, and end impunity.
In addition, the report seems to believe in the Ethiopian government’s commitment that its “independent” agency will hold all perpetrators-including the government itself-responsible for the atrocities committed in Tigray. “The international mechanism is a supplement to the national mechanism, not a replacement,” the report pointed out. “In this regard, JIT was informed that state agencies such as the Federal Attorney General’s Office and military justice agencies have initiated procedures to hold the perpetrators accountable, and some perpetrators have been convicted and sentenced.”
Strangely, the United Nations seems to believe that the Ethiopian Defense Forces and the Ethiopian Government’s Attorney General can ensure accountability. The Ethiopian National Defense Forces is the main participant in this war, and the Minister of Justice, like the EHRC, has no prosecution independence to hold Ethiopian government officials accountable.
The United Nations does not lack experience in conducting independent and balanced investigations into cruel, complex and multifaceted conflicts. It has established countless independent investigative committees and international fact-finding missions around the world, instructing them to investigate atrocities and recommend corrective measures based on the findings. From Burundi, South Sudan and Gaza to Syria, Libya and Lebanon, such investigations give victims the opportunity to tell the truth and ensure that the perpetrators are held legally and politically accountable. Moreover, the comprehensive reports produced by these investigations are historical records of serious crimes that have withstood the test of time and suppressed revisionist tendencies.
However, in the conflict in Ethiopia, the UN’s efforts to discover the truth and call for accountability did not meet all its established standards. The UN/EHRC report not only failed to determine the truth about the bloody and ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, it also caused many people affected by these atrocities to lose any trust in the UN.
But it is not too late for the United Nations to make up for its many failures in Ethiopia.
The joint report itself pointed out the need for further investigation and accountability. Now, the United Nations should start working to establish and support a completely independent international investigation mechanism that can conduct meaningful investigations, listen to all (not some) victims, preserve evidence for future trials, and promote true accountability .
The Tigray people, as well as the entire Ethiopians, should be like this.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.