Ethiopia: Joint Submission to the Universal Periodic Review

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Submitted with Physicians for Human Rights in April 2024 for Ethiopia’s 4th Periodic Review


  1. Ethiopia’s human rights situation deteriorated sharply since its last UPR on May 14, 2019.[1]  Since then, government forces, militias, and armed groups have been committing widespread abuses with impunity, resulting in grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Government efforts to address past and ongoing abuses, including atrocities carried out during armed conflict since 2020, have lacked transparency and independent oversight. Journalists, civil society organizations, and outspoken public figures have faced an increasingly hostile and restrictive environment, with government authorities resorting to arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention without charge.


  1. In its last UPR review, Ethiopia accepted recommendations to manage inter-ethnic violence, address violations by security forces, safeguard refugee rights, and uphold humanitarian principles.[2]  Since then, multiple regions in the country have been gripped by violence and armed conflict.
  2. The two-year armed conflict in northern Ethiopia between the Ethiopian federal government and allied forces, including Eritrean forces against Tigrayan fighters, resulted in widespread and serious violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  3. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented war crimes by all parties to the armed conflict. In Tigray, HRW found that Ethiopian and allied forces carried out large-scale massacres, indiscriminate shelling and drone strikes, attacks against Eritrean refugees, pillage, widespread sexual violence against women and girls, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.[3] Human Rights Watch also documented the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in Western Tigray Zone by interim authorities, Amhara regional forces, and Amhara militia known as Fano, with the acquiescence and possible participation of federal government forces. PHR found that Ethiopian and allied forces perpetrated brutal, widespread and systematic acts of conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray.[4]
  4. The Ethiopian government’s nearly two-year-long effective siege of the Tigray region, as part of a deliberate strategy of warfare, added to the suffering of the civilian population.[5] It impeded access to critical medical services in Tigray, notably for  survivors of sexual violence, doubly victimizing them.[6]  Between November 2020 and November 2022, the average length of time between an incident of conflict-related sexual violence and  survivor seeking medical care was 16 months, which is grossly beyond the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 72 hours for post-rape care.[7]
  5. Tigrayan forces carried out attacks against Eritrean refugees in Tigray, as well as summary executions, sexual violence, pillage and the destruction of hospitals in the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions in July 2021.[8]
  6. Despite a November 2022 cessation of hostilities agreement between the federal government and Tigrayan authorities, serious human rights abuses against civilians persist. In areas under their control, Eritrean Defense Forces continue to subject women and girls to rape and other forms of sexual violence while obstructing aid access.[9] As of March 2023, local authorities and Amhara forces in the Western Tigray Zone continued an ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans.[10]
  7. The security situation in the Amhara region deteriorated in April 2023, with an armed conflict between Ethiopian security forces and Amhara militia known as Fano breaking out there in August. The United Nations, human rights groups and the media have reported on security force abuses in Amhara, including the summary killings of civilians, unlawful drone strikes, and mass arrests without due process.[11]
  8. Since 2019, Oromia has been gripped by fighting between government forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) armed group in the context of a counterinsurgency campaign. Both Oromo and minority communities have been subjected to severe abuses.[12] The government relaunched its campaign in May 2023 after failed peace talks.[13]


  • Uphold international humanitarian lawprohibitions on attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, by adhering to the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution, and authorizing independent, impartial investigations of all serious laws-of-war violations,
  • Allow rapid and unfettered access to humanitarian aid in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and all other conflict-affected regions of the country.


  1. In its 2019 UPR, Ethiopia supported recommendations to ensure independent and impartial investigations into cases of extrajudicial executions and hold perpetrators to account. [14]Since then, Ethiopia has witnessed an alarming increase in extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions by government security forces as well as by non-state armed groups in response to situations of unrest and during armed conflict. In late October 2019, protests erupted in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and spread to Oromia and Harar regions, as well as to the city of Dire Dawa. Human Rights Watch found that security forces shot and killed at least six people in Ambo, Oromia and wounded at least 37 others during the protests and their aftermath.[15]
  2. In June 2020, the assassination of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa triggered widespread unrest and violence that left at least 178 people dead.[16] Security forces killed and injured dozens of mourners.[17] Dozens of ethnic and religious minorities, primarily ethnic Amhara, were also killed in brutal attacks, with government forces failing to intervene in some areas. These communities also suffered massive property destruction and widespread displacement.[18]
  3. During the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopian federal and regional forces carried out executions, including large-scale massacres against Tigrayan civilians. On November 20, 2020, Human Rights Watch found that Ethiopian and Eritrean forces indiscriminately shot at civilians in Axum town, including in the town’s Saint Mary’s hospital.[19] Human Rights Watch found that Ethiopian federal and Amhara regional forces and militia carried out extrajudicial executions of Tigrayan residents in at least 11 towns across Western Tigray Zone in November 2020.[20]On January 17, 2021, Fano militia and local residents rounded-up dozens of male Tigrayan residents of Adi Goshu. Amhara Special Forces (ASF) took about 60 of them to the Tekeze River bridge that same day, and summarily executed them.[21]
  4. When the northern Ethiopia conflict spread to the Amhara region in June 2021, Tigrayan forces committed summary executions of civilians in towns they controlled. Human Rights Watch found Tigrayan forces summarily executed 26 civilians in Chenna between August 31 and September 4.[22]On September 9, 2021, Human Rights Watch found that Tigrayan forces executed 23 people, including farmers working in the fields between the villages and Kobo town.
  5. Government forces and armed groups have also carried out summary executions in the Oromia region. On May 11, 2021, Ethiopian government forces summarily executed 17-year-old Amanuel Wondimu Kebede in Dembi Dollo, a town in the Kellem Wellega Zone of western Oromia.[23] In June 2022, an armed group shot and killed about 400 Amhara civilians in western Oromia, in villages in Tole and Sene kebeles (wards), while government forces stationed nearby did little to protect them.[24]The unidentified assailants also destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and looted property.
  6. Conflict broke out in Ethiopia’s Amhara region between Ethiopian government forces and Fano militia in August 2023. The UN documented that at least 183 people have been killed in clashes since fighting escalated in July 2023.[25]Rights organizations and media also have documented unlawful government drone strikes, and the summary execution of Amhara civilians by government forces during the conflict. Human Rights Watch found that Ethiopian government forces summarily executed dozens of civilians in two apparent reprisal attacks in the town of Merawi in January and February 2024.[26]


  • Support a credible, independent, and transparent investigation into summary executions by government security forces, unlawful attacks by armed groups, and violence due to intercommunal attacks.
  • Hold accountable all security forces members, regardless of rank or position, that were responsible for ordering or using excessive force.
  • Issue clear directives to all security forces that prohibit the use of lethal force except in situations where it is necessary to prevent an imminent threat of death or serious injury in line with international standards.
  • Extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, among others, to investigate and report on allegations of serious abuses in Ethiopia.


  1. In its 2019 UPR cycle, Ethiopia supported a recommendation to incorporate into its legislation a definition of torture in line with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and noted a recommendation to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It also supported conducting independent and transparent investigations into all allegations of torture in places of detention. Ethiopia has not implemented either recommendation.[27]
  2. Ethiopian federal and regional officials and security forces in Afar, Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray regions have tortured and otherwise mistreated detainees as well as denying detainees of basic needs, and refused them access to legal counsel and their relatives.[28] Human Rights Watch has also documented several cases of executions of detainees and deaths in detention due to mistreatment and as a result of the dire conditions. [29]
  3. During the conflict in Tigray, Amhara security forces, militias, and officials tortured and ill-treated Tigrayan detainees in Western Tigray Zone, including beating them with iron pipes, electric wires, and sticks.[30] In Badu Sidiste prison in Western Tigray, detainees described being tied in stress positions for hours, either at night or forced to endure the scorching sun.[31]
  4. In 2021, Ethiopian authorities transferred Tigrayan deportees from Saudi Arabia to detention centers and subjected them to beatings, denial of food, and forcible work without pay.[32]


  • Allow independent humanitarian organizations and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission unhindered access to formal and informal detention facilities without prior notification to monitor conditions and assess basic needs.
  • Promptly order a transparent and impartial investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, executions, and enforced disappearances in all federal and regional detention facilities, including irregular facilities.
  • Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture.
  • Extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to visit Ethiopia and provide unhindered access to detention facilities.


  1. In Ethiopia’s 2019 UPR, the government accepted recommendations to “better protect women and girls, including measures to prevent and protect women and girls from physical, emotional and sexual abuses.” In addition, the government also supported the conduct of “more awareness-raising programs to create a culture that rejects all forms of violence against women and supports victims of violence against women.” None of these recommendations have been adequately implemented.[33]
  2. Conflict-related sexual violence has reached alarming levels in Ethiopia, particularly within the context of the war in northern Ethiopia where warring parties subjected girls and women, as well as men and boys, to widespread sexual violence.
  3. The UN and independent human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, have documented widespread and egregious sexual violence in Tigray, including rape, multiple perpetrator rape, enslavement and sexual slavery, sexual mutilation, and torture against Tigrayan women and girls by Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces, and Amhara regional forces and militias.[34]
  4. Human Rights Watch with Amnesty International found that Amhara regional security forces and Fano militia, with the acquiescence and possible complicity of federal government forces, subjected Tigrayans in the Western Tigray Zone to a campaign of ethnic cleansing since November 2020. As part of the campaign, security forces subjected girls and women to widespread sexual violence, including multiple perpetrator rape accompanied by verbal and physical abuse, abduction, and sexual slavery. Some women were raped in front of their children.[35]
  5. In 2021, Human Rights Watch documented the serious healthcare impact, trauma, and stigma experienced by Tigrayan survivors of sexual violence during the armed conflict in Tigray.[36] Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces pillaged and destroyed health facilities in Tigray. The presence of soldiers at checkpoints on the roads and near or inside health facilities prevented survivors, especially from outside urban areas, from getting treatment. The Ethiopian government’s imposition of an effective siege on the region prevented an adequate and sustained response to survivors’ needs and the rehabilitation of the region’s shattered healthcare system.
  6. In September 2023, the Independent International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) estimated that over 10,000 Tigrayan survivors, primarily girls and women, sought out care.[37]
  7. According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights and the Organization for Justice and Accountability in the Horn of Africa (OJAH) and based on a systematic review of 304 medical records, Eritrean and Ethiopian armed forces and associated militias appear to have perpetrated sexual violence on a widespread and systematic basis in Tigray from November 2020 through June 2023.[38] The patterns and perpetration of sexual violence found in the medical records reviewed by PHR and OJAH indicate a systematic use of rape as a war strategy.[39]
  8. PHR and OJAH found that sexual violence was often perpetrated by multiple perpetrators, at times involved captivity, the use of weapons, and rape utilizing objects. Survivors also consistently identified perpetrators as belonging to Ethiopian or Eritrean armed forces and affiliated militias. The violence continued after the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement, with the patterns of conflict-related sexual violence remaining the same before and after the agreement’s signing. The sexual violence inflicted immediate physical and psychological harm on survivors, their families, and communities, with long-lasting repercussions for Tigrayans. Some 21 cases of conflict-related sexual violence among the 304 medical records examined involved children ranging in age from 8 to 17.[40]PHR and OJAH’s report found the highest number of cases (88 incidents, 29 percent) in Western Tigray.[41] Medical records reveal severe physical and psychological consequences of conflict-related sexual violence, including short-term and long-term effects like PTSD, depression, and reproductive organ injuries and disorders as well as testing rates of HIV above the national average and reports of unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual violence
  9. Human Rights Watch research into attacks on Eritrean refugees by Eritrean government forces and Tigrayan militia fighters between November 2020 and January 2021 found that Tigrayan militias raped a number of Eritrean women, and at least one 17-year-old.
  10. The ICHREE also found that Tigray-aligned fighters during their takeover of parts of the Amhara region between July and December 2021 committed rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls as young as 11.


  • Halt all rape, enslavement and sexual slavery, and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence; protect civilians; and condemn sexual and gender-based violence, as mandated under international human rights law and humanitarian law as well as agreed to by the parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
  • Direct the armed forces to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for sexual violence and ensure that anyone committing sexual violence is appropriately held to account.
  • Publicly call on all forces to respect the protected status of medical facilities and immediately cease attacks against health care, which limit access to care and services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Allow and facilitate the unfettered delivery of impartial humanitarian relief for civilians in need of supplies essential to their survival; strengthen the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of sexual and reproductive health services and other forms of rehabilitation, without discrimination, including for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, across Tigray and other conflict-affected areas;
    • These services should include the clinical management of rape, safe abortion and post-abortion care, as well as mental health and psychosocial support for survivors and their families.
  • Promptly allow independent and impartial investigations for all sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Accept the inquiry procedure under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
  • Extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls and Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls to Ethiopia.
  • Ensure prompt reparation, justice and accountability measures that are credible and survivor-centered and engage those directly affected by conflict-related sexual violence to meaningfully address sexual violence committed by armed forces and all other actors. Ensure survivors can participate without risk of retaliation, and that their perspectives, safety, and needs are prioritized.


  1. Ethiopia has previously supported a recommendation to “strengthen the national legal framework to ensure the prevention of and accountability for violations of human rights in detention centers and to improve detention conditions in line with international standards.” Although the government closed infamous detention centers where torture was rampant such as “Jail Ogaden” and “Maekelawi Prison,” the latter reopened and currently serves as a detention center.[42] In addition, the government continues to carry out arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention without charge in centers across the country.
  2. As part of its ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans in Western Tigray Zone, Amhara regional police, known as “Amhara Liyu,” Fano militia, and in some cases, Ethiopian and Eritrean federal forces, systematically rounded up thousands of ethnic Tigrayans detained them in police stations, prisons, military camps, and even repurposed warehouses and schools across the Western Tigray Zone for prolonged periods without charge.[43]
  3. After Tigrayan forces recaptured Mekelle in late June 2021, Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa resorted to ethnically targeted arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and other abuses against Tigrayans.[44]
  4. On January 5, 2023, Ethiopian police arrested and forcibly disappeared for several hours, four staff members of the nongovernmental Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) investigating forced evictions outside Addis Ababa. The four staff members were Daniel Tesfaye, Bezuayehu Wondimu, Bereket Daniel, and their driver, Nahom Husen.[45]
  5. Public reports emerged in June 2023 alleging Ethiopian security forces had rounded up and arbitrarily detained Eritrean refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country.[46] This followed Ethiopia’s halt to registering new Eritrean asylum seekers in March 2020.
  6. Since 2020, Ethiopian authorities defied multiple judicial orders demanding the release of seven Oromo Liberation Front figures.[47] This case exemplifies a broader trend in Ethiopia, where federal and regional authorities exert control over judicial processes, with investigators routinely appealing or ignoring court decisions involving government critics or opposition figures.
  7. The government’s declaration of a state of emergency in Amhara in August 2023, and its extension in February 2024, has empowered authorities to conduct mass warrantless arrests, including of opposition figures in Addis Ababa, sometimes holding detainees in informal locations like schools.[48]


  • Immediately end arbitrary arrests and detentions, ensure that anyone arrested is promptly charged based on credible evidence or released immediately; those who have been charged should have the opportunity to defend themselves, with legal assistance, before an impartial court.
  • Allow independent monitoring of all detention facilities and prisons by independent human rights and humanitarian monitors. This should include the ability to conduct private, confidential meetings with prisoners.
  • Extend a visit to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Ethiopia. 

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