Neither Impartial nor Independent: The Joint UN-EHRC Human Rights Investigation in Tigray
By Chidi Odinkalu, Paulos Tesfagiorgis, Alex de Waal and Delia Burns
In March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) established a joint investigation into alleged violations of human rights committed during the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia. Controversially, the partner was the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The decision has been heavily criticized by Tigrayans and members of the international human rights advocacy community, as the EHRC is a government body and based in Addis Ababa.
Remarkably the Attorney General of Ethiopia was invited to make a presentation at the same session. The rationale for this was not explained. It will do little to assuage concerns that the investigation is not impartial.
This blog post takes the form of annotations to the presentations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, and the head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Mr. Daniel Bekele.
Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia
48th session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, 13 September 2021
Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
I thank you for the opportunity to brief this Council on the grave human rights situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, since my last update in June and based on my Office’s global mandate.
Fighting has continued unabated and has expanded to neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. Together with other pockets of intercommunal violence, the conflict risks spilling over to the whole Horn of Africa.
In the last few months, mass detentions, killings, systematic looting, and sexual violence have continued to create an atmosphere of fear and an erosion of living conditions that resulted in the forced displacement of the Tigrayan civilian population on. Civilian suffering is widespread, and impunity is pervasive.
Even with the changing dynamics in the conflict, there has been one constant: multiple and severe reports of alleged gross violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law by all parties.
In the context of this ongoing human rights crisis, I appreciate the Government of Ethiopia’s cooperation with the OHCHR-Ethiopian Human Rights Commission joint investigation. I also thank the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, led by the Chief Commissioner, and my Regional Representative in Addis Ababa  for their leadership in this difficult and complex undertaking and urge them to continue their efforts.
By way of an update, the first two field deployments went ahead as planned to Mekelle, parts of Eastern Tigray and Southern Tigray. However, due to sudden changes in the security situation and in the conflict dynamics, the team had to shorten its stay in Maikadra, and deployments to East and Central Tigray, including Axum, could not proceed .
The joint report, with its findings and recommendations, is expected to be released on 1 November 2021. It is already clear that cases documented comprise multiple allegations of human rights violations, including attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances among other grave abuses. Sexual and gender based violence has been characterised by a pattern of extreme brutality, including gang rapes, sexualised torture and ethnically targeted sexual violence. I acknowledge the Government’s express commitment towards accountability for sexual violence and I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of any actions taken.
From my last update to the Council to date, allegations of human rights violations have continued to implicate Government forces and its allies . We have received disturbing reports that local fishermen found dozens of bodies floating along the river crossing between Western Tigray and Sudan in July. Some allegedly had gunshot wounds and bound hands, indications that they might have been detained and tortured before being killed.
There are continued reports of large-scale arbitrary detentions of ethnic Tigrayan civilians in unofficial sites in Western Tigray. Reports also suggest that people of Tigrayan ethnicity have been profiled and detained by law enforcement officials on ethnic grounds, with hundreds having reportedly been arrested in recent security sweeps, mostly in Addis Ababa, and several businesses belonging to ethnic Tigrayans having reportedly been closed .
Incitement to hatred and discrimination, and rising levels of inflammatory rhetoric  were also documented targeting people of Tigrayan ethnicity. History has unmistakably taught us the dangers of this kind of rhetoric. De-escalation measures must urgently be put in place .
Threats and attacks on journalists have also been reported, as well as the suspension of media outlets’ licenses and intermittent restrictions and shutdowns  of Internet and telecommunications in Tigray.
Since gaining control of parts of Tigray and expanding to neighbouring regions, reports have also identified Tigrayan forces as perpetrators of human rights abuses.
During the period under review, the Tigrayan forces have allegedly been responsible for attacks on civilians, including indiscriminate killings resulting in nearly 76,500 people displaced in Afar and an estimated 200,000 in Amhara.
More than 200 individuals have reportedly been killed in the most recent clashes in these regions, and 88 individuals, including children, have been injured. On 5 August, Tigrayan forces allegedly attacked and killed displaced people, mainly women, children, and older people, sheltering in a camp in Galikoma Kebele, in the Afar Region.
We have also received serious reports of recruitment of children into the conflict by Tigrayan forces, which is prohibited under international law.
While I remain extremely concerned by the human rights situation in Tigray and neighbouring regions, I have taken note of the Government’s earlier commitment to accountability for human rights violations in Tigray. In my meeting with the Attorney General last June, he informed me about some of the measures the Government was taking , including prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence. I look forward to hearing about the Government’s progress in this regard, emphasizing the need for transparency in any such proceedings, as an important part of redress for victims. I also urge the Government of Ethiopia to accept the recommendations of the joint investigation report as part of its efforts to bring about accountability.
International, regional and national human rights and humanitarian actors must be given unhindered access.
I also reiterate my call to the Eritrean Government to ensure accountability for alleged widespread human rights violations by their forces in the Tigray region.
Beyond Tigray, further efforts are required to put an end to deadly intercommunal violence. And the response cannot be a military one.
I reiterate what I told the Council last June: grievances must be addressed through meaningful peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts to avoid the risk that Ethiopia will be torn apart, with profound implications for the country and the rest of the Horn of Africa.
The solution to the conflict in Tigray can only be found through a political process and dialogue. I commend the African Union’s mediation efforts in this regard. I call on all parties to immediately end hostilities without preconditions and negotiate a lasting ceasefire.
Looking ahead, a sustainable peace will only come through accountability, a genuine inclusive dialogue and a national reconciliation process.
More substantive efforts must be undertaken by all sides to renew the social contract between the Government and its people. Only once this is in place will Ethiopians be able to fully enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms.
 This diminishes the significance of the civil conflict between the Government and the Oromo Liberation Army.
 &  This statement obscures two things. One is the question of who was committing the violations.
 This statement obscures two things. One is the question of who was committing the violations. Taking mass detentions as a case study, the AP reported the detention of thousands of Tigrayans by Ethiopians back in June on the grounds of their alleged support to the “Junta,” or TPLF. In August, the AP spoke with a Tigrayan military member held in a camp in Oromia with 700 other military members and their families, all Tigrayans. The interviewee noted that children as young as under 3 are being held there. Human Rights Watch investigation results published in August found evidence of forced disappearances and corroborated the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Tigrayans. Journalists, aid workers, and activists are among the targeted. Similar detainment of civilians and/or non-combatants by members of the Tigrayan Defence Forces have not been reported, except for a few unverified accounts by Amhara local administrators.
The second, relatedly, is the radical change that took place on June 28. Many of the violations within Tigray ceased at that time due to the absence of Ethiopian and Eritrean troops. The UNOCHA situation report of July 9 notes this, with respect to humanitarian access violations: “Since the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) took control of most parts of Tigray on 28 June, following the withdrawal of the Ethiopian Defense Forces from the capital, Mekelle…[the] overall situation in major towns, including Mekelle, Adigrat, Adwa, Axum, and Shire remains calm with no significant incidents reported. Humanitarian access within most of Tigray is significantly improving, with large areas now accessible while the flow of humanitarian supplies into the region remains blocked.” https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-tigray-region-humanitarian-update-situation-report-9-july-2021
 Over one million Tigrayans were displaced according to UN sources.
 There are indeed violations by all parties as reported recently by Human Rights Watch.
 There are indeed violations by all parties as reported recently by Human Rights Watch. There is however an asymmetry. The most serious report of a violation of refugee law is the abduction and disappearance of more than 20,000 Eritrean refugees by the Eritrean Defense Force. There is no recent word on this from the UN. There is no alleged violation by any Tigrayan force involving comparable numbers.
 &  With the TPLF declared a “terrorist organization” by the Ethiopian Govt, the High Commissioner omits any mention
 With the TPLF declared a “terrorist organization” by the Ethiopian Govt, the High Commissioner omits any mention of the TPLF/TDF, suggesting that they did not engage with them. In turn this raises legitimate concerns about the impartiality of the investigation and reporting process.
 The fact that the High Commissioner’s deployment was ordinarily accredited to Addis Ababa could count against its independence as it exposed them to the threat of having that accreditation withdrawn if the government of Ethiopia became uncomfortable with the team. One member was expelled from Ethiopia on September 30.
 The Commissioner does not explain that after June 28, access to sites of war crimes and other violations,and access to survivors
The Commissioner does not explain that after June 28, access to sites of war crimes and other violations, and access to survivors and witnesses, became much easier because those places and individuals were now under the control of the Government of Tigray. She does not explain why it was not possible for the UN OHCHR to travel to areas under the control of the Government of Tigray to continue its investigations under much more favorable local circumstances.
 The initial date was August, postponed to September and now postponed again. If the
The initial date was August, postponed to September and now postponed again. If the team had to shorten its investigations there is no practical reason for the delay. No explanation for the delay has been provided. The most reasonable inference is that the report has been delayed so as not to spoil the celebrations over the formation of a new government in October.
 Notable for its absence is any mention of starvation crimes. UN Security Council resolution 2417, on armed conflict
 Notable for its absence is any mention of starvation crimes. UN Security Council resolution 2417, on armed conflict and hunger, operative paragraph 4, “invites States and the Secretary-General to bring to its attention information regarding the unlawful denial of such access in violation of international law,” and paragraph 10 “Strongly urges States to conduct, in an independent manner, full, prompt, impartial and effective investigations within their jurisdiction into violations of international humanitarian law related to the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, including the unlawful denial of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in armed conflict, and, where appropriate, to take action against those responsible in accordance with domestic and international law, with a view to reinforcing preventive measures, ensuring accountability and addressing the grievances of victims.” The Commissioner gives no indication that she or her partner EHRC will comply with these obligations.
 Here as elsewhere the passive voice obscures the well-documented fact that the overwhelming numbers of victims
 Here as elsewhere the passive voice obscures the well-documented fact that the overwhelming numbers of victims are Tigrayans and the perpetrators are Ethiopian federal forces and Eritreans.
 Here and elsewhere it is striking that the Commissioner omits mention of Eritrea.
 According to an Addis Fortune report cited by HRW in their latest investigation into arbitrary arrests
 According to an Addis Fortune report cited by HRW in their latest investigation into arbitrary arrests of Tigrayans, the number of businesses closed is 74: “Along with these two hotels, 72 other restaurants, bars, and nightclubs have also been temporarily closed ‘for several reasons’, Philimon disclosed to Fortune.” The Reporter of Ethiopia places this number at hundreds: “Officials in the Wereda found Harmony Hotel, Kaleb Hotel, XO Addis Club, Join Club, and over 82 similar businesses, to have been playing music that humiliates the ENDF, at the risk of inflaming the public into further violence, had it not taken a prompt decision…Similarly, head of communications at Yeka Sub-city, Tesfaye Shiferaw told The Reporter that at least 174 firms have been allegedly engaged in illegal business activities.“We will not continue to tolerate any business entity that violates the law,” Tesfaye said…Officials from Kality Sub-city also told The Reporter that at least 159 businesses in the Sub-city have been temporarily closed for similar reasons including hoarding, noise pollution, unlicensed activities and the like.
 &  These can be seen as incitement to genocide. In fact, making use of genocidal rhetoric, Abiy stated in July
 These can be seen as incitement to genocide. In fact, making use of genocidal rhetoric, Abiy stated in July, “We work to remove the weeds. When we remove the weed, we take care of the wheat, we will not hurt the wheat. The weed is being removed from our country.” In September, a close ally of the Ethiopian president, Daniel Kibret, compared Tigrayan rebels to the devil and said they should be “the last of their kind.”
 Here as elsewhere there is a preference or using the passive voice. The responsibility for the incitement and for de-escalation lies with the Ethiopian Government.
How can there be accountability if the report is unwilling to allocate responsibility?
&  This is an occasion on which the violations are solely on one side, so it would be appropriate to name the government
 This is an occasion on which the violations are solely on one side, so it would be appropriate to name the government as the responsible party. See inter alia, the International Federation of Journalists’ report. Indeed, electricity, mobile network, and internet blackouts in Tigray have been reported consistently since the beginning of fighting in November 2020, with major shutdowns reported in December, February, June, and July. Electricity blackouts continue to be reported weekly by UNOCHA and its humanitarian partners.
 The UN itself is unable to take communications equipment, even items as basic as USB drives, into Tigray. The UN OHCHR presumably can confirm such reports and would not need to say they “have been reported.”
 Strictly speaking this time frame and locations outside Tigray fall outside the terms of reference of the inquiry.
 Strictly speaking this time frame and locations outside Tigray fall outside the terms of reference of the inquiry. It is of course understandable that the inquiry should be expanded but some mention of this would be in order.
 The specificity to the allegations against TPLF/TDF standards in sharp contrast to the
 The specificity to the allegations against TPLF/TDF standards in sharp contrast to the generic and vague allegations against the Ethiopian Government, which does not reassure those who fear that the investigation is biased. She also fails to mention the source of these reports, i.e. not their own investigation, but rather the words of Government and Government-aligned bodies; whereas the evidence of atrocities committed against Tigrayans emerges from their own investigation. Reuters noted that these reports have not been verified.
 There is a notable asymmetry here. Reports from Government-aligned sources are given with specifics while those implicitly
 There is a notable asymmetry here. Reports from Government-aligned sources are given with specifics while those implicitly or explicitly identifying the government and its allies as the perpetrators are dealt with in generics. Reports of killings by the ENDF, EDF and their allies add up to 9,961 civilians.
 This allegation has also been made against the government and Eritrea (very well-
 This allegation has also been made against the government and Eritrea (very well-substantiated in the case of EDF) but that is not mentioned. There are serious questions about the allegation against the TDF. The Tigrayans insist that they have more volunteers than they can enlist. In his podcast with Crisis Group, Declan Walsh of the New York Times, one of the very few journalists who has actually observed the TDF fighters, was unimpressed. Walsh recounts, “I would say that the image that has been portrayed by some people on social media in recent days—especially on the Government side—of what they’re calling a drugged-up, conscripted army of child soldiers inside Tigray is inaccurate. I’ve covered a lot of wars with child soldiers in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, and I can tell you, this was not that.” Moreover, a BBC investigation found that one much-publicized piece of supposed evidence for child soldiers was a fake, staged by the Ethiopian authorities.
&  The Attorney General was also invited to make a presentation at the Council session, extending credibility to the Ethiopian
 The Attorney General was also invited to make a presentation at the Council session, extending credibility to the Ethiopian Government claims.  UNFPA said in March that at least 22,500 women and girl survivors of sexual violence would require treatment. In contrast, Ethiopian authorities announced in May that only 3 soldiers had been convicted and 25 others indicted for rape and other acts of sexual violence committed in the Tigray conflict. Amnesty noted that “no information has been made available about these trials, or other measures to investigate and to bring those responsible to justice.” There are no indications that any survivors of rape in Tigray have been asked to testify against their alleged rapists.
 Indeed. This raises the question of what efforts did her office make to obtain access to Tigray after June 28?
 Indeed. This raises the question of what efforts did her office make to obtain access to Tigray after June 28? And insofar as access was denied, who obstructed that access?
 The statement has been remarkably thin on any acknowledgement of Eritrea to this point. If there are “widespread” violations by Eritrean forces, what might those be?
 There are in fact no mediation efforts. The AU has appointed a High Representative for the Horn of Africa but has undertaken no mediation yet.
Statement by Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele
Excellency President of the Human Rights Council,
Distinguished members of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols duly observed,
The joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office into alleged violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Tigray has concluded its field work  and, the team is currently analysing the full range of information collected. Therefore, given that we are still at the stage of analysing the information and evidences we have gathered; and in accordance with the terms of reference and other agreed documents between the two institutions, we are not yet in a position to share any findings and conclusions at this stage.
But the types of human rights issues we investigate against all parties to the conflict include : attack against civilians and civilian objects and other protected persons and objects; unlawful or extra-judicial killings; forced displacement of people; sexual and gender-based violence; torture and other ill-treatment; arbitrary detention, abduction and enforced disappearances; and violations against refugees.
I wish to urge members of the Council and others to wait for the final report of the joint investigation expected to be published on 1st of November 2021, which will include our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
While we wait for the final report, I wish to share the following observations on the recent developments and overall environment affecting the human rights and humanitarian situation on the basis of my Commission’s ongoing monitoring activities to help inform this dialogue of the Council.
1. The last Resolution of this Council on Tigray (47/13) coincided with the first full week, since the announcement of a ceasefire by the Ethiopian government on June 28th. At the time, the ceasefire and the military developments seemed to indicate, and indeed gave hope, for an improvement of the humanitarian situation as well as a pathway to peace . The humanitarian report of that first week of July stated, “Humanitarian access had been significantly improving” and “75% of the population were [at the time] living in [areas] where relief operations can take place”. 
2. However, less than three weeks into July, significant challenges emerged: TPLF put forward a set of preconditions to accept the ceasefire , it launched military offensive on neighbouring regions, movement of aid convoys were hampered , and it was followed by regrouping of military forces in neighbouring regions, national mobilization for war  and counter offensive military operations. It soon became clear that communication, other public services, and humanitarian assistance will continue to be affected with the escalation of hostilities .
3. Therefore, the Tigray conflict itself has now become a misnomer – between July and August, more than 10 semi-urban or rural areas, in neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, have changed hands at least once. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in these two regions, adding to the massive toll of displacement in Tigray and other parts of the country. Military clashes and movements have alternated between targeting transportation routes, civilian population, and infrastructure . In a far cry from the expected respite during the Ethiopian rainy season for agriculture and recovery , entire productive economies have been disrupted.
4. Despite the misinformation campaign and social media frenzy , Council members should also be cognizant that the human rights story of all these conflicts including in Tigray is not merely a black and white narrative . It has nuanced complexities and soldiers or fighters of all parties to the conflict and their affiliated groups are credibly implicated with violence against civilians and civilian infrastructures including sexual violence  and use of child soldiers .
5. While we understand that the security problems created by the spread of the conflict to neighbouring regions has slowed humanitarian assistance , we remain concerned by the still dire humanitarian situation particularly of IDPs. The federal government, the local authorities in the region as well as the humanitarian agencies should redouble their efforts  to ensure uninterrupted and improved provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Tigray and neighbouring regions.
6. The slow but gradual overtures to negotiations from both sides and some initiatives proposed by the international community are encouraging. However, if Ethiopia’s international partners trying to address the human rights crisis are to have a meaningful and constructive role, they should always work with full understanding of history and context of this complex political crisis .
7. But the Council members should also be cognizant that, it is still the people of Ethiopia who have the highest stake in putting an end to the suffering of their fellow Ethiopians. It is a principle that defines national sovereignty , but it is also a humane standard to live up to. This requires the humility to understand that no political righteousness or just cause is worth the level of human suffering we have lived through as a people and as a country during this war. It also requires the humility to understand that the available national, legal, and institutional parameters are far from being perfect, but that they are in every sense the most relevant and the most cost-effective tools for addressing the human rights crisis and finding a sustainable solution out of this war. Therefore, we urge all parties to the conflict as well as the international partners, to reach into this humility.
 This appears to contradict the statement by the UN Commissioner that the field work was cut short and thus could not be completed.
 Note that the original announcement indicated that the report would be presented in August. No additional explanation is provided for the delay. If the field research were cut short, there should be even less reason for delay.
 Notable by its absence is any specific reference to starvation crimes including obstruction or theft of humanitarian
 Notable by its absence is any specific reference to starvation crimes including obstruction or theft of humanitarian assistance. These are expressly prohibited under the Ethiopian Penal Code of 2004, article 270(i) “War Crimes Against the Civilian Population,’ prohibits “the confiscation, destruction, removal, rendering useless or appropriation of property such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water
installations and supplies and irrigation works, health centres, schools.”
&  This is very misleading. The Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire after its forces had been defeated and
 This is very misleading. The Ethiopian government announced a unilateral ceasefire after its forces had been defeated and driven out of most of Tigray. It was not a negotiated ceasefire. The government expressed its intent to return to Tigray by force in the Fall and has been actively recruiting. It also continued to use its most potent weapon of war, namely hunger.
 The reason for this improvement had nothing to do with actions by the Government of Ethiopia. On the contrary, the defeat of Ethiopian forces and the forced withdrawal of Eritrean forces meant that there was free movement within most of Tigray for the first time since the conflict began. The obstruction of aid consisted of the government blocking aid from coming into Tigray. UNOCHA’s latest update indicates only 525 trucks carrying humanitarian aid have entered Tigray since 12 July, comprising less than 11 percent of the minimum required assistance in famine conditions. Notably, access constraints are nearly only present when attempting to enter or leave Tigray from neighboring regions. Moreover, these trucks have been unable to return due to a lack of fuel. The government blockade of Tigray includes preventing commercial traffic and fuel supplies.
 &  He does not mention those preconditions. On the initial list of preconditions released July 4, these were:
 He does not mention those preconditions. On the initial list of preconditions released July 4, these were:
1. That invading forces of Amhara and Eritrea leave.
2. Independent UN investigation into Abiy, Isaias, and the atrocities committed in Tigray.
3. Unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and compensation.
4. Full access to basic services, including transport.
5. Allow government of Tigray to resume normal work under the constitution and release budget.
6. Proclamations against Tigray after Sept. 25, 2013 (EC) be voided and release of those in detention.
7. Creation of an independent international entity entrusted to carry out these conditions.
He might have noted that:
#3 and #4 relate to fundamental human rights.
#1 and #2 are conditions that would be raised at some point.
A revised set of preconditions was released July 27, adding to the above, inter alia, “ Cessation of hate speech and genocidal rhetoric of Ethiopian officials against Tigrayans.”
 This implies that the TDF operations were the principal cause of hampering aid convoy movement. Not so. Movement into Tigray from Amhara region had already been restricted, leaving the major access route from Semera in Afar region. There has been almost no fighting on this route at all, and international agencies attribute the insecurity to government-aligned forces. An important bridge over the Tekezze River was destroyed by Government forces. Not mentioned here is air access which is entirely at the discretion of the government. The principal cause of hampering aid access was government policy.
 &  This is a rare, if oblique, criticism aimed at government strategy by the EHRC.
 This is a rare, if oblique, criticism aimed at government strategy by the EHRC.
 There is no reason why communication and public services such as banking should be affected by hostilities on the ground. They are determined by central government policy and action, not local fighting.
 &  The Government of course officially called it a “law enforcement operation” and refused to admit that it
 The Government of course officially called it a “law enforcement operation” and refused to admit that it was an armed conflict. Its position is unclear. Insofar as Mr Bekele is concerned with nomenclature he might wish to mention this and comment on whether “law enforcement” is a misnomer as well.  The lack of specificity in this statement—describing displacement in Tigray only as ‘massive’—is striking: As of September 2021, there are some 2.1 million internally displaced in Tigray, representing one third of the population. Over one million are newly displaced by the current conflict. There are also 250,000 internally displaced people in Amhara and 112,000 in Afar.
 &  A notable example is the destruction of the Tekeze bridge by retreating Ethiopian forces in the end of June.
 A notable example is the destruction of the Tekeze bridge by retreating Ethiopian forces in the end of June. The bridge’s destruction posed even greater challenge to the already hampered humanitarian effort. Tigrayan forces have not been officially reported causing intentional destruction to transportation routes and other infrastructure.
 This was the Government’s stated reason for the so-called ceasefire. It cannot be taken seriously because of the government record of using starvation as a weapon and preventing agricultural activities when it was in occupation of Tigray. In this sentence, Bekele is showing that he is repeating government talking points.
 &  The purpose of this paragraph appears to be to sow doubt about the reporting of the conflict and to equalize the conduct
 The purpose of this paragraph appears to be to sow doubt about the reporting of the conflict and to equalize the conduct of the two sides.  Here Bekele is revealing his purpose. He is seeking to equalize the crimes committed by the government and its allies with those committed by the Tigrayan forces.
 &  The campaign of sexual violence by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces is widespread and systematic.
 The campaign of sexual violence by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces is widespread and systematic. To date there have been no reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Tigrayan forces.
 See note 20 comment on child soldiers.
 &  This is repeating a falsehood. The humanitarian assistance to Tigray comes through two routes.
 This is repeating a falsehood. The humanitarian assistance to Tigray comes through two routes. One is the overland route from Semera. There has been almost no fighting on this route at all. The other route is by air. The air access is entirely at the discretion of the government.
 The implication here is that the Federal Government is already making an effort to provide humanitarian assistance, rather than the reality which is that its efforts are devoted to preventing it.
 This is another government talking point. Underlying it is the argument that the
 This is another government talking point. Underlying it is the argument that the ills of Ethiopia can be attributed exclusively or overwhelmingly to the years in which the EPRDF was in power, during which time it is supposed that senior government officials in today’s administration, who held high positions in the EPRDF, were powerless or innocent of wrongdoing.
 This contradicts the High Commissioner’s claims about violations targeted at people of Tigrayan identity.
 &  This statement follows the Government’s ongoing argument that Western powers have not respected its sovereignty and
 This statement follows the Government’s ongoing argument that Western powers have not respected its sovereignty and principles of non-intervention during decision-making around this conflict, e.g. during the imposition of the first round of sanctions and international media reporting on the atrocities committed. Another government talking point given by Bekele.
 There is a curious double-speak at work here. The Ethiopian government is nothing if not arrogant in its claims. It accuses its critics of lack of humility.
Photo: Flags being prepared for UN General Assembly General Debate. United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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