Protecting Human Rights Should Be Priority

Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) seized power in April 2018, many political reforms targeting an improved human rights environment were introduced in Ethiopia. To this end, several oppressive laws, criticized for enabling human rights abuses in the past, have been revised. During Abiy’s tenure, crimes against humanity have reached new heights. Serious human rights violations including killings, torture, rape, abduction, and other ill-treatments have regularly occurred in different parts of the country including in Addis Ababa, Benishangul-Gumuz, West Wollega, Gedeo, West Guji, Benchi Sheko, Wolaita, and Konso. They have also occurred in border areas between Afar-Somali, Oromia-Somali, and Amhara-Tigray. However, little or no efforts were made to apprehend perpetrators and hold them liable.

The latest crisis in the state of Tigrai further evidences Ethiopia is facing widespread violence against human rights that must be addressed. From the slaughtering of more than 500 people during the initial periods of the conflict to repeated allegations of abuses against local communities and sexual violence against women, such acts, anecdotal until recently, has now been confirmed by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

According to the report released by the commission recently, 108 cases of rape have been identified by conducting assessments in four hospitals operating in Tigrai. EHRC also received reports of lost lives, body and mental injury, looting, and other human rights violations that have occurred in different parts of Tigrai which it has not been able to duly investigate yet.

The assessment team also found 20 children in Aider Hospital with severe injuries on their bodies. This is despite the fact that the military has the moral and professional responsibility to ensure civilians’ safety in post war activities.

Clearly the breach of human rights in Tigrai is not just a matter of few ‘bad apples’. The crisis in Tigrai depicts a widening blindfold logic of legitimizing conflict in the name of political self-righteousness. Of the human rights abuses amidst continued ethnic turbulence and state military interventions to squash even the slightest extremism, little has been accounted for.

The acknowledgement of government officials, like Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed, Minister of Women, Children, and Youth, who wrote that rape has taken place conclusively and ‘without doubt’, is the first step. Verifying allegations and holding people to account is an important step the government must take to make sure such horrible deeds never happen again in Ethiopia.

Establishing effective, credible, and independent security and law enforcement establishments as well as building institutions strong enough to protect human rights should be government’s priority. In fact, the institutional impartiality of law enforcement institutions and the judiciary is critical for Ethiopia, especially when one of the most consequential national elections is ahead. Otherwise, Ethiopia will remain in a precarious situation with further instability and violence against human rights looming. EBR

9th Year • Feb 16 – Mar 15 2021 • No. 95

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