Ethiopia: Impunity for torture during the Tigray war

During its 76th session on May 3 and 4, 2023, the Committee against Torture (CAT) examined Ethiopia's 2nd periodic report. The country rapporteurs were Mr. Todd Buchwald and Mr. Sébastien Touzé.

The delegation from Ethiopia was led by Mr. Alemante Agidew, State Minister at the Ministry of Justice of Ethiopia.

The Committee commended Ethiopia's self-critical effort in its report.

Main points discussed:

CAT experts expressed concerns about the serious legal qualifications used in reports by non-governmental organizations, such as "crimes against humanity" and "ethnic cleansing," to describe the abuses committed by the Ethiopian national army in the Tigray region. The CAT also expressed concern about the sexual exploitation of girls and the recruitment of boys into armed groups during this conflict. The Committee was surprised by the Ethiopian authorities' refusal to cooperate with the International Commission of Experts on Human Rights in Ethiopia (ICHREE), established in 2021 by the Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of human rights violations since the start of the conflict in the northern part of the country in November 2020.

The ongoing transitional justice process also raised questions regarding the limited participation of civil society and the lack of inclusion of torture survivors in the national dialogue. Experts emphasized that this process should exclude any amnesty and ensure accountability, reparations for victims, alleviation of suffering, and healing, as well as guarantees of non-repetition. However, national reconciliation cannot be achieved if difficulties in accessing detention centers for non-governmental organizations and the International Commission of Inquiry persist.

The Committee expressed concerns about the prescription of torture in the country. According to national legislation, the non-prescription of torture only applies when torture is an integral part of a crime against humanity. Although unconstitutional, the Committee against Torture raised concerns on forced confessions through torture. Article 31 of the Criminal Procedure Code remains ambiguous on the subject by prohibiting the use of "incitement, threat, promise, or any other inappropriate method" by the police without explicitly mentioning torture.

Finally, the CAT expressed concerns about the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and other dissident voices by the government, especially civil society actors who participated in the review of Ethiopia during the 76th session of the Committee.

The CAT's recommendations are available here.

Follow-up Recommendations:

The State party should provide information on the implementation of the recommendations regarding:

  • Allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of armed conflict.
  • The implementation of transitional justice with the meaningful participation of conflict-affected populations, especially victims, their families
  • compiled, disaggregated and analyzed statistical data relevant to the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention in a more targeted and coordinated manner

The State party should provide this information by May 12, 2024.

Watch here (part one) and here (part two) of the dialogue with the CAT

OMCT related activities: CAT Preparatory Mission in Ethiopia

Four years after the last visit of an OMCT delegate to Ethiopia in February 2019, Isidore NGUEULEU, the Senior Advisor for Human Rights in Africa, conducted a preparatory mission in Ethiopia from February 20 to 26 to assist CSOs in drafting their alternative report for Ethiopia's second review during the 76th session of the CAT.

This preparatory workshop, held on February 23 and 24, 2023, in Addis Ababa, brought together about ten Ethiopian civil society organizations from all regions of the country, working in various areas of human rights protection, including the fight against torture, violence against women, child protection, and the protection of persons with disabilities. This work was conducted in the presence and with the contribution of a representative from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). During the workshop, the discussions focused on analyzing the legislative and institutional framework for combating torture and the current reality of its implementation.

In addition to participating in this workshop, the OMCT delegate held meetings with the commissioner responsible for civil and political rights at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations. They all raised concerns about the precarious situation of human rights defenders and the shrinking civic space.

Read the alternative report from NGOs submitted to the CAT.