Ministers of Foreign Affairs of EU member states
Mr Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative for Foreign Affairs
Mr Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Ms Annette Weber, EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa
Brussels, March 2, 2023
Re: Benchmarked Approach on Human Rights and Accountability for the EU's Reengagement in Ethiopia
Dear Foreign Ministers of EU member states,
Dear High Representative / Vice-President Borrell,
Dear Commissioner Lenarčič,
Dear Special Representative Weber,
We write to encourage the European Union and its member states to consider specific, measurable, and ambitious recommendations and indicators when assessing progress in the achievement of the three key asks made by the EU in the early phases of the northern Ethiopia conflict.
In the 22 December 2022 statement on behalf of the EU, the High Representative noted that the gradual reestablishment of the full spectrum of EU’s development cooperation and economic support would be tied to “[c]oncrete progress on the implementation of the ceasefire, unimpeded humanitarian access, and accountability for International Humanitarian Law and human rights violations and abuses.”
We welcome the link made between the EU’s reengagement and concrete progress on these key issues. But for concrete and lasting progress in these areas to be achieved, the EU and member states should set clear indicators whereby progress will be assessed.
We specifically urge the EU to reflect in both the roadmap for the EU’s reengagement with Ethiopia and in the next Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the situation in Ethiopia, the following indicators in the assessment of its reengagement:
1. Resumption of Humanitarian Assistance and Basic Services
- Ethiopian authorities and all warring parties should ensure full resumption and functionality of basic services including banking, electricity, and telephone services in the Tigray region, central to ensuring that the enormous needs of the population in the Tigray region are met.
- Ethiopian federal and regional authorities, as well as armed forces and groups operating in conflict-affected areas, should ensure sustained, unrestricted, and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations to all conflict-affected areas; this includes allowing independent humanitarian organizations to operate without arbitrary restrictions and onerous bureaucratic requirements and ending all attacks and other forms of harassment against aid workers.
- Ethiopian federal authorities, Amhara regional authorities and interim authorities in Western Tigray should facilitate prompt and unhindered access to United Nations human rights protection monitors in Western Tigray zone and ensure access of independent humanitarian organizations to detention facilities in Western Tigray.
2. Cessation of Hostilities
- Signatories of the cessation of hostilities agreement and its backers should allow for rigorous independent monitoring of the implementation of commitments made, including regarding protection of civilians and obstacles to humanitarian access.
- The African Union (AU) and key observers of the agreement, including the UN, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States should include human rights, gender experts and humanitarian experts in the monitoring mechanism.
- The AU should publicly report on their findings.
3. Accountability for human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law
- Ethiopian authorities should genuinely cooperate with and facilitate the work of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) and other international and regional human rights monitoring and investigations, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ commission of inquiry.
- Ethiopian authorities should allow access, investigations and reporting by independent human rights groups and the media, including international media, into conflict-affected areas throughout the country.
- Ethiopian authorities should demonstrate much greater transparency around domestic efforts and criminal investigations into war crimes and other serious human rights violations committed by warring parties since November 2020. For example, by:
- Making public the information they have on completed and pending investigations and prosecutions carried out both by the Ministry of Justice and the Inter-Ministerial Task Force (IMTF) into conflict abuses, including the perpetrators, types and areas of violations, and access of victims to any court proceedings. Any military, police, and other investigations already underway should be promptly completed and the findings made public.
- Allowing independent monitoring of court cases and ensuring victims have access to court proceedings, including in any cases heard before the military courts.
- Providing public updates on the progress of the IMTF’s planned phases of investigation, under Track II and Track III which were scheduled to be completed by December 2022.
- Providing public updates on efforts made to investigate and hold Eritrean forces responsible for alleged violations carried out in Ethiopia since November 2020. Such updates should include efforts or challenges in securing the cooperation of Eritrean authorities.
- Investigating and appropriately holding accountable interim authorities and forces responsible for the ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans in Western Tigray, including the three individuals named in our 6 April 2022 report.
In addition, the EU should continue to support, politically and financially, critically important independent and transparent investigations that can pave the way for accountability and the protection of human rights.
Finally, given the legacy of disruption of development assistance and of instrumentalization of aid during the conflict, notably as part of the ethnic cleansing campaign in Western Tigray zone, by the Ethiopian government, the EU and its member states should decide that any future package of development assistance – including individual measures and under the Multiannual Indicative Programme for Ethiopia – provide for enhanced, robust, independent third-party monitoring of all EU and EU member state development assistance to ensure that such assistance is not being diverted, used in a discriminatory manner, or improperly withheld.
We remain available should you have any additional questions on our research, findings and recommendations on the situation in the country, and thank you for your attention to our concerns.
Philippe Dam Mausi Segun
EU Advocacy Director Executive Director Africa Division
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch