The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a comprehensive 90 pages report on the findings of consultations with victims and affected populations on the topic of transitional justice held in various regions of Ethiopia from July 2022 to March 2023. The findings shed light on critical aspects of transitional justice such as accountability, truth-seeking, reparations, guarantees of non-recurrence, and reconciliation. The report also includes victims’ and affected populations’ perspectives on the possible role of traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution in dealing with past human rights violations. This report follows the joint advisory note on transitional justice issued by the EHRC and OHCHR-EARO on December 15, 2022.
A total of 805 participants, including victims and their families, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities, traditional and religious leaders, and grassroots civil society organizations working on human rights and peacebuilding, took part in the consultations. Consultations took place in Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali, and Tigray regions, as well as Dire Dawa city administration. Additionally, a separate national consultation was conducted with religious leaders.
The report reveals a resounding recognition of the importance of responding to past human rights violations. It reflects a broad consensus on the importance of a comprehensive transitional justice process that incorporates criminal accountability, truth-seeking, reparations for victims, and guarantees of non-recurrence. To respond to this demand by victims and affected populations from various backgrounds and regions, the country should adopt a holistic approach to addressing human rights violations through a comprehensive transitional justice process.
Justice and accountability for human rights violations were identified as a key demand among participants. However, the report identifies a broader concept of justice beyond criminal accountability, calling for diverse and contextualised mechanisms. It reveals a vision of justice that includes financial compensation, identifying the root causes of violations, living without fear, revealing the truth through impartial investigations, access to essential services, rights restoration, and durable solutions for displaced people.
The report also highlights the necessity of truth-seeking to break the cycle of false and disputed narratives that fuel mistrust and recurrent violence in the country, resolve conflicts, achieve sustainable peace, and facilitate reparations. In doing so, it emphasizes key principles that should underpin the truth-seeking process, including transparency, victim-centeredness, inclusivity, participation, and independence of institutions. Participants also expressed willingness to testify and provide their accounts as part of the truth-seeking process. The report underscores the importance of taking measures to create a safe environment for individuals to feel secure and protected to provide their accounts of past human rights violations.
The report reflects the diverse suggestions on reparations for victims, capturing the lived experiences and specific needs of those affected. Suggestions included monetary or in-kind compensation proportional to the harm suffered, restoration of destroyed properties, provision of medical and psychosocial services, and support for the immediate basic needs of internally displaced persons, such as food, water, shelter, and healthcare, as well as the importance of durable solutions to end displacement and reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance.
Participants also stressed the need for legal and institutional reform to prevent the recurrence of human rights violations and abuses. This involved reviewing and amending legal and policy frameworks, including the Constitution, to ensure equal protection for all Ethiopians. Calls for reform of public institutions, particularly justice and law enforcement organs, were also made.
Reconciliation was recognized as necessary and achievable, but participants emphasized that it could only be realized once victims’ wounds were addressed and healed. Participants identified the potential of positive religious, cultural, and traditional shared values, as well as traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution, to promote reconciliation.
The involvement of national stakeholders, including all parties to a conflict and all sections of society, was deemed necessary to ensure a legitimate, genuine, participatory, inclusive, gender-sensitive, and victim-centred transitional justice process. Concrete opportunities for women’s meaningful engagement and mainstreaming of their perspectives were highlighted.
While welcoming the concrete positive steps taken by the Ethiopian government thus far, EHRC calls upon the government to unequivocally demonstrate its political will and commitment at both the federal and regional state levels. This requires pivotal measures to create an enabling environment for the design and implementation of transitional justice by peacefully resolving ongoing conflicts through dialogue, maintaining peace and security across the country, upholding the rule of law, complying with international standards on the imposition of states of emergency, preventing gross violations and abuses of international human rights law and serious humanitarian law violations, and ending a culture of impunity. Furthermore, EHRC urges all stakeholders, including the media, civil society organizations, political parties, and religious and traditional leaders to actively and constructively engage in the transitional justice process.
While acknowledging the important public consultations carried out by the Working Group of Experts on Transitional Justice, EHRC also urges policymakers to strongly consider the findings of this report in the development of the national transitional justice policy, to ensure that the voices and needs of victims and affected populations are adequately heard and addressed. The implementation of a genuine and comprehensive transitional justice process grounded in human rights norms, with a strong focus on the needs and priorities of victims, is the most appropriate means for Ethiopia to confront its past, establish a just and peaceful future, and foster national cohesion.
EHRC Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele stated that “transitional justice is essential to address the root causes of human rights violations, to heal wounds of past abuses, and to consolidate a viable path towards justice, sustainable peace and reconciliation.” He added, “EHRC will continue to work in partnership with the Government, civil society, and all other stakeholders to ensure that applicable principles and standards such as inclusiveness, meaningful participation, gender-sensitivity, victim-centeredness, transparency, and national ownership are integrated into the design and implementation of a transitional justice policy.”