On 29 September 2023, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Law, Justice and Accountability published a report, produced by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, as part of the Tigray Inquiry, an inquiry into the situation in Tigray since November 2020. The Inquiry, chaired by Brendan O’Hara MP, and supported by Baroness Kennedy KC and Lord Alton of Liverpool, received an unprecedented amount of data, including testimonies from victims and witnesses from Tigray.
The Tigray Inquiry found that Tigrayans have been subjected to horrific atrocities during the war in the region between November 2020 and November 2022. Many of these atrocities are continuing to this day. Among the submissions received by the Inquiry, mass killings, sexual violence, and starvation were the most commonly identified crimes. The atrocities have not received enough international focus despite the war being one of the deadliest in recent years and the atrocities meeting the legal definition of international crimes.
The Tigray War in Numbers
600,000 – 800,000 people killed
Over 120,000 people subjected to conflict-related sexual violence
Over a million people internally displaced within Tigray
Over 60,000 Tigrayans fled Ethiopia to Sudan
About 2.3 million children remain out of school in northern Ethiopia
Thousands of people died due to starvation
Despite the ceasefire in November 2022, the situation of the communities is still dire. The ceasefire may have stopped the guns, but atrocities continue to be committed, including rape and sexual violence. The communities continue to face a humanitarian crisis which claims lives to this day. The destruction brought about by the war means that the communities will continue to feel the effects of the war for months and years to come.
The situation in Tigray requires urgent international attention. So far this has not been forthcoming despite the horrific reports of atrocity crimes in the region. The only remaining international body with the mandate to examine the situation, the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia, will cease to exist over the next weeks, as its mandate is unlikely to be renewed.
Commenting on the Tigray Inquiry, Brendan O’Hara MP said: ‘The evidence received by the Tigray Inquiry sent a strong message that the atrocities are not over. We must act now – act to stop further atrocities but also to ensure that past atrocities are dealt with by competent courts.’
Lord Alton of Liverpool, the patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response, added: ‘As the 54th session of the Human Rights Council is to conclude soon, States have a week to ensure that a resolution renewing the mandate of the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia is renewed and so allowed to continue its important monitoring, collection and preservation of evidence and analysis of the situation. It is very clear that the Government of Ethiopia is not equipped to do this.’
Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, the patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response, stressed the importance of justice and accountability to address the situation in Ethiopia: ‘Justice and accountability for the Tigray War are crucial for victims and survivors of the atrocities. However, it does not end there. Addressing past atrocities means also addressing a risk factor of future atrocities – as impunity always begets further crimes. Securing justice and accountability for Tigray and the whole of Ethiopia requires assistance from the international community.’The Tigray Inquiry report will be sent to all Permanent Missions to the UN in Geneva with a call to renew the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia over the next week.
Any questions about the report can be sent to: Dr Ewelina Ochab [email protected].
Link to register: https://upenn.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_fLwlMkxzSl6uuCStXCB2fA#/registration
On 1 August 2023, the UK Government formally recognised the Daesh atrocities for what they are – genocide. Announcing the news, Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, said:
The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago and the repercussions are still felt to this day. Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated.
Today we have made the historic acknowledgement that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people. This determination only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that they receive the compensation owed to them and are able to access meaningful justice.
The UK will continue to play a leading role in eradicating Daesh, including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.See: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-acknowledges-acts-of-genocide-committed-by-daesh-against-yazidis?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications-topic&utm_source=73605fb6-9857-4211-b878-877eb2e988ed&utm_content=immediately
This determination has been made following the judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice earlier this year, which found a former Daesh fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq.
On 3 August 2023, the world will mark nine years since the Daesh attack on Sinjar. Daesh unleashed prohibited acts against the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq. Daesh fighters killed hundreds if not thousands of men. As part of the same campaign, Daesh fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery. More than 2,700 women and children are still missing and their fate is unknown.
Dr Ewelina Ochab, co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, welcomed the announcement from the UK Government:
This is an important recognition of the nature and scale of the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against the Yazidis. However, it should not have taken nine years to recognise the atrocities for what they are. We need to do better – this includes implementing the duties under the Genocide Convention. The duty to prevent genocide is not to be tiggered at the serious risk of genocide – a risk of genocide that States should identify, recognise and act upon.
Now we must continue pursuing justice and accountability for the atrocities, including by investigating and prosecuting British Daesh fighters for their involvement in genocide and not for terror-related offences only. We must also explore the best ways to assist the community – including by securing and ensuring their future in Iraq and other countries.
Over the years, the Coalition for Genocide Response has been raising the situation of the Yazidis with the UK Government and calling for formal recognition of the atrocities as genocide, including with a petition delivered to No 10, several joint letters with Yazidi organisations and Parliamentary sessions on the topic.