Mar 30, 2021

Ogaden: UNPO case highlights military atrocities, 2007-2018

On 28 March 2021, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), working on behalf of the people of the Somali region in Ethiopia, including refugees in other countries, set out why the Ethiopian military's actions in the Ogadeni region of Ethiopia amounted to gross human rights violations, in a brief submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). The brief was in furtherance of a case brought in 2018 against the government of Ethiopia related to massive, gross and systematic violations of human rights committed against Ogadeni civilians occurring between mid-2007 and 2018.

The violations alleged are the result of coordinated attacks by different sections of the military, police and other departments of the government against the people of the Ogaden region, including by the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), regional paramilitary Special Police Forces (the Liyu Police), regular police forces and the Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). The violations committed include large-scale killings; acts of torture and sexual violence; the forced displacement of populations; arbitrary arrests, detentions and executions; the destruction of housing and villages; and violations of the right to health.

As outlined in the communication, the Ogaden region in Ethiopia has been an epicenter of instability in the Horn of Africa region for several decades. The unresolved conflict between the Government of Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has been a major obstacle to peace and respect for human rights in the region. Following six years of occasional clashes, in mid-2007 the Ethiopian military engaged in a crackdown against the ONLF involving a wave of serious and systematic human rights violations inflicted on the people of the Ogaden region. This violent campaign triggered a subsequent humanitarian crisis. Beginning in 2007, thousands of civilians were forced to flee and seek refuge in neighboring Somalia and Kenya to escape the widespread attacks of Ethiopian military on civilians and villages. In total, tens of thousands of Ogaden civilians living in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State experienced serious abuses and a humanitarian crisis.

While the removal of the Abdi Administration in August 2018, who had overseen the mass campaign of abuse, w provided some reprieve and allowed Ogadeni to return, no justice for victims has been realized.To this day, there have been no effective investigations or prosecution and victims have not received any reparations. Ethiopia continues to fail to fulfill its obligations to ensure that the perpetrators of these human rights violations are investigated, arrested and tried before domestic courts. To the contrary, the perpetrators involved have been able to operate with near-total impunity.

In its application, the UNPO strongly emphasizes the need for concrete and meaningful remedies, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition to ensure justice and accountability is achieved. The reparations requested in the UNPO’s complaint have been constructed with input of the Ogadeni community and include, inter alia, immediate, impartial and effective measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of the violations; the establishment of a specifically dedicated, independent and effective complaint mechanism to receive and ensure prompt and impartial investigations into the violations; the establishment of an independent mechanism to identify and provide meaningful reparations for victims of violations; and the strengthening of relevant national legislation, judicial bodies, public participation and consultative processes to ensure non-repetition of the violations.

In light of the recent and ongoing series of conflicts happening in Ethiopia, UNPO also strongly condemns the events occurring in Tigray and recalls the mass violations that have occurred in the Oromo region. In both instances, there is also a lack of accountability or meaningful investigation or prosecution into the alleged crimes.

In August 2020, the General Assembly of the UNPO passed a resolution addressing these issues and calling for the Ethiopian government to urgently address the crises occurring as a result of ethnic tensions in the country and for the the international community, including the Nobel Committee, to hold Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accountable for breaches of international law with regards to the violent crackdown on Ethiopian citizens accused of holding political affiliation to OLF or other opposition political parties.

The UNPO, accordingly, remains deeply concerned about the ability of the Ethiopian justice system to carry out concrete and meaningful remedies, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition in a manner likely to bind the country together and help resolve the various ongoing inter-ethnic crisis. The UNPO emphasizes the need for the government of Ethiopia to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and invites it to lead investigations into the country’s ongoing violence.

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