Statement by H.E. Dr Gedion Timothewos at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Statement by H.E. Dr. Gedion Timothewos, Attorney General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia at the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
22 June 2021
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Madam High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A little over two and half years ago, I had the privilege to address this Council when Ethiopia was reviewed at the 33rd UPR Working Group Session. The UPR process has afforded Ethiopia the opportunity to showcase to the world the significant political and legislative reforms introduced by a new administration since 2018.
At the time, many countries expressed their appreciation for our reform process. I would like to seize this opportunity to express the gratitude of the Government of Ethiopia for the continued support of our friends in the international community. I would also like to report to this Council that the reform has brought about progress on multiple fronts including in the protection and promotion of human rights.
However, just like any significant reform process in a complex environment, the reform efforts in Ethiopia have faced serious challenges. As we have continued pushing forward political and democratic reforms, we have encountered various challenges. One of these challenges was the desperate attempt by the TPLF, a terrorist group well known for committing serious human rights violations over the last three decades, to reclaim power through illegitimate, violent and unconstitutional means.
Since the reform began, the TPLF, unwilling to accept the new democratic dispensation in Ethiopia has engaged in various unlawful activities including acts of terrorism. While instigating deadly communal violence in different parts of the country, the TPLF has rebuffed the government’s repeated plea to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. The efforts of civil society and religious leaders, including traditional elders for peaceful dialogue were rejected time and again by the TPLF. Taking its reliance on violence to its logical end, the TPLF finally committed the most egregious crime by attacking the Ethiopian National Defense Force. This wanton act of aggression and treason posed a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian state. The belligerence of the TPLF also posed a grave danger to the stability of the entire Horn of Africa region. Therefore, it was a duty incumbent upon the Government of Ethiopia to take appropriate measures against the illegal army of the TPLF and to restore lawful authority in the Tigray region.
Seven months after the successful conclusion of the law enforcement operation against the terrorist TPLF, the federal government has been working in collaboration with humanitarian actors to address the pressing needs of its citizens in the Tigray regional state. Unfettered humanitarian access has been granted to humanitarian workers and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts are underway with progress being made in restoring basic social and economic services. The Government of Ethiopia has also continued to engage with relevant humanitarian actors with a view to address any concerns they might have and difficulties they might face.
One of the objectives of the reforms being implemented by the Government of Ethiopia is ensuring compliance with obligations and duties under international human rights and humanitarian law. Following reports of alleged crimes and human rights violations committed in the Tigray region during the past few months, the Government of Ethiopia has committed itself to carrying out investigations to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. This concrete commitment to ensuring accountability has been demonstrated by action. It has not just been a commitment of words but of deeds. So far charges have been pressed against more than sixty soldiers who have been suspected of killing civilians and engaging in acts of sexual violence.
The investigation into the atrocities committed by the TPLF militia in the town of Mikadra has been completed and the trial of the suspects will commence in the coming weeks.
Investigation into the crimes committed in the city of Axum are also being finalized. As the facts on the ground warrant, these investigations are being expanded in their scope by coordinating the efforts of the military justice system, regional law enforcement authorities and federal investigators and prosecutors. In addition to these efforts, a joint investigation team composed of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has already been deployed on the ground and has commenced its work.
These, Madam President, are testaments to the willingness and capability of the Ethiopian government to ensure accountability. Those who were involved in committing crimes will be brought to justice and will be punished to the full extent of the law. For these mechanisms of accountability to function properly, it is important for the international community to wait for the findings of the investigations which will be made public in due course. The Council needs to let justice run its course. Premature and untimely resolutions in this Council’s Session would constitute undue interference with ongoing investigations. Interventions by the Council at this point in time serve no legitimate purpose while the investigations, including the joint investigation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights are proceeding smoothly. Such premature actions would only undermine the integrity of ongoing investigations and do nothing to advance the cause of human rights. To the contrary such efforts amount to politically motivated interference in ongoing investigations. Ethiopia in this regard calls on the Council to support its efforts, particularly by providing the requisite time and space for the investigations to be completed.
Finally, I would like to assure this august gathering and the international community of Ethiopia’s commitment to continue its constructive engagement in the work of the Council and fulfill its obligations under international law to respect, protect and fulfill human rights.
I thank you.
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