Thank you, High Commissioner, for your timely briefing.
We are deeply concerned by your grave assessment of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, both today and in the report of the OHCHR/EHRC joint investigation from early November. Our own research has also found serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, including large-scale massacres, summary executions, enforced disappearances, widespread sexual violence including gang rape and sexual slavery, forced displacement, indiscriminate shelling, pillage, destruction of refugee camps and crops, attacks on civilian infrastructure including schools and hospitals, and obstruction of humanitarian assistance, leaving millions at risk of famine and disease.
As we speak, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are being held in formal and informal detention facilities throughout Ethiopia, rounded up in recent weeks primarily because of their ethnic identity. Throughout the conflict we have reported on ethnic profiling, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances of Tigrayans from all walks of life. This recent wave of arrests follows the Ethiopian government’s increased use of hate speech and enactment of a sweeping state of emergency law. There are also increasing reports of arrests of Oromos.
For nearly five months, the Ethiopian government has imposed an effective siege on the Tigray region, including blocking food, medicines, cash, and fuel to the civilian population in violation of international humanitarian law.
Despite global calls for humanitarian access, the situation has only worsened. We recently reported on the devastating impact these restrictions are having on the ability of aid agencies to respond to the needs of the many victims of sexual violence. The government’s policies are doubly victimizing these victims.
In recent days, there are increasing reports that Amhara forces forcibly rounded up and transported scores of Tigrayans in Western Tigray towards central Tigray, including women, children, and older persons.
In the Amhara region, Tigrayan forces have committed summary executions and sexual violence against civilians since July, and thousands of Amhara civilians have been displaced.
These horrific abuses require immediate investigation and documentation in order to ensure accountability and to prevent impunity. The Human Rights Council has a crucial role to play in deterring further atrocities and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice.
The Council should urgently establish an independent international investigative mechanism that can ensure credible scrutiny, preserve evidence for future trials, and facilitate genuine accountability.
Such action should not wait until the Council’s next session in March. Therefore, we are calling on states to urgently convene the Council in a special session, so that it can respond to the grave situation that we have heard about today by creating an investigative mechanism to establish the facts, preserve evidence, make recommendations and report back to this Council.
Now is the time to act.