The international community has the responsibility to halt the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This is known as the Responsibility to Protect – R2P. This concept was developed by the International Committee on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001 and adopted in 2005 at the UN World Summit. The concept emerged after the international community adequately respond to mass atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. R2P is stated in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document.
According to these paragraphs, each State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. The international community is advised to encourage, and help States to exercise this responsibility. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Moreover, the international community through the decision of the Security Council may take collective action, if peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
Genocide is any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2).
In the past year, supporters of TPLF and other western countries voiced their concern about the ‘Tigray genocide’. However, the joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) from 16 May to 30 August 2021 found serious abuses and violations of human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law by all parties of the conflict. This means there is no proof that solely the Ethiopian government conducted acts of genocide in Tigray region.
But still, some western countries and supporters of TPLF continue to voice their concern of ‘Tigray genocide’. They are pushing for this narrative so that western countries which support TPLF could intervene under the principles of R2P. If they can produce an ‘international investigation’ which supports, the narratives of the genocide they will have the legal ground to physically intervene in Ethiopia. This might be one of the reasons why the UN Human Rights Commission recently approved establishing an international Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to conduct thorough investigations into allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law and international refugee law in Ethiopia.
When one investigates when this call of ‘Tigray genocide’ is raised and put on the table, one can observe that this narrative is put in place whenever the Ethiopian government forces start to defend TPLF forces or when TPLF forces start to lose strategic areas. When TPLF forces started to gain control of areas in the Afar and Amhara regions and when they were ‘about to control Addis Ababa’, this narrative was put under the rug. Why?