Juba, South Sudan,
June 18, 2021 – The Ethiopian government and the African Union (AU) are at crossroads after the continental body announced Wednesday that it is formally starting an investigation into the Tigray crisis on 17th June 2021.
In a statement dated June 16, 2021, AU says the inquiry was part of the organization’s mandate to protect the people of the continent.
“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), in accordance with its mandate of promotion and protection of human rights in Africa under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), hereby informs the general public that the Commission of Inquiry on Tigray will officially commence its work on 17 June 2021,” it says.
AU says the Commission of Inquiry was established pursuant to ACHPR Resolution 482 on the fact-finding mission to the Tigray region in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, adopted at the 32nd Extraordinary Session held virtually on 7 May 2021.
“The Commission of Inquiry has a mandate to, inter alia, investigate allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and to gather all relevant information so as to determine whether the allegations constitute serious and massive violations of human rights,” AU said in the statement.
The Commission of Inquiry will begin its work in Banjul, The Gambia. “It will conduct investigations on the ground and in neighboring countries when the conditions are met,” it notes. “The Commission of Inquiry will sit for an initial period of three months, which may subsequently be renewed.”
But despite the Commission of Inquiry saying it will adhere to the principles of independence, confidentiality, impartiality, and neutrality, ensuring the protection of those with whom it collaborates, the federal government of Ethiopia called the decision “misguided”, urging AU to “immediately cease” the Commission of Inquiry.
A statement from Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry also criticized the Commission of Inquiry as lacking a legal basis adding that a joint investigation was a better option.
But the members of the newly-established commission are defiant, saying such statement was not formally extended to them from Ethiopia, vowing to continue with the probe into alleged human rights abuses in Tigray.
“What we have started cannot be stopped,” Remy Ngoy Lumbu, the commission’s vice-chair, told reporters on Thursday adding that Ethiopia has given authorization for the commission to visit Tigray but no date has been set, with the security situation a factor.
Any findings “definitely will not be hidden in the drawer”, Lumbu was quoted to have said.
Tigray is swept by humanitarian catastrophes with insecurity on one hand and man-made famine on the other.