Oct 16, 2020

Ethiopia needs the ICC

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization calls on the government of Ethiopia to join the International Criminal Court and invite it to lead investigations into the ongoing inter-ethnic violence in the country. 

On 2 August 2020, the General Assembly of the UNPO passed a resolution calling for the Ethiopian government to urgently address the crises preciptated by the assassination of the Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. The Resolution called for, amongst others, the cessation of military attacks against the Oromo community and of arrests of leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, including UNPO Presidency member Dr. Shigut Geleta. These arrrests appear to have been conducted without regard for international standards of justice such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Luanda Guidelines on Conditions of Arrest, Policy Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa. The resolution also reaffirmed the UNPO's absolute commitment to non-violence and equal respect for self-determination of all peoples and the requirement that all actors must ensure that protests remain non-violent and do not threaten or harm the lives and property of other people.

The UNPO is pleased to note that Dr. Geleta and other such political leaders have been released from detention and that the Ethiopian Attorney General has publicly affirmed that the government will only arrest and detain those against whom there is plausible evidence of direct participaton in the violence that followed Haacaaluu Hundeessaa's assassination, rather than those "held for their political activity". While this is nothing more than international law requires, such public commitments are nonetheless critical at such a time of crisis.  Ethiopia needs political leadership dedicated to non-violent solutions to the real challenges that the country faces to be able to participate freely in the political process and dialogue on the future of the country and actions which threaten such freedom of speech and participation are particularly dangerous at this time.

Nonetheless, the UNPO is deeply concerned about allegations related to an Oromo group named "OLF-Shane", an unaffiliated splinter group formed after the OLF dedicated itself to a political solution in Ethiopia.  Allegations are not only that they have participated in violent attacks, but also that they may have precipitated the entire crisis itself by assassinating Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, whose views on the future of Ethiopia and the Oromo people OLF-Shane disagreed with. 

It seems clear from reports from Ethiopia that human rights violations have been committed by multiple actors, military and non-military, and from multiple ethnic groups.  And the UNPO strongly supports efforts to investigate and prosecute any and all actors who have used or incited violence in and around this crisis, including violent groups such as OLF-Shane.  The UNPO urges all political leaders from all parties to be publically and clearly united in their condemnation of violent groups such as OLF-Shane and to seek investigations and prosecutions related to the violence that they and others have allegedly caused. Perpetrators from all sides must be swiftly brought to justice in proceedings that are both in accordance with international law in process and substance and which are seen by all nations and peoples of Ethiopia as being independent and free of political or ethnic bias. 

The UNPO is concerned about the ability of the Ethiopian justice system to carry out such proceedings in a manner likely to bind the country together and help resolve the crisis. The Ethiopian justice system has long been criticized as grossly inadequate and subject to political interference. And Ethiopia has been riven with corruption, authoritarianism and inter-ethnic division for so long that it is difficult to imagine a situation where investigations and prosecutions into crimes against humanity alleged to have been perpetrated during this crisis will be considered fair and just by all segments of Ethiopian society if conducted solely at the national level by national actors. 

Unfortunately, Ethiopia is one of only a handful of African countries not to have signed onto the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. That failure is particularly glaring at a time when an impartial investigation into allegations of inter-ethnic crimes against humanity in Ethiopia is so needed. 

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed noted that "[j]ust like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends" and affirmed his commitment that Ethiopia "pursues peace through multilateral cooperation and good neighborliness." He further acknowledged that justice is a critical component of peace ("peace thrives and bears fruit when planted in the soil of justice") and that "disregard for human rights has been the source of much strife and conflict" in Ethiopia.

To that end, the UNPO urges the government of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed himself to live up to these words, by signing and ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and inviting it to lead the investigation into this current Ethiopian crisis. The UNPO believes that an international justice process such as that which could be provided by the International Criminal Court is the only way to guarantee that the crisis is dealt with in such a manner as to ensure all sides in Ethiopia accept its outcome.