Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for immediate response to the dire human rights situation of thousands of displaced civilians from Tigray and bordering Amhara regional states who were recently transferred from Jarre camp in South Wollo zone in Amhara region, to the Awash seven federal police training center. The Commission said their rights to movement need to be respected.
The civilians, numbering around 2,800, were mostly natives of Tigray and displaced from cities in the central Tigray region including the capital Mekelle, as well as Adigrat, Axum, Shire and the surrounding areas, EHRC said. They were sheltered in Jarre camp for the past several months, where they endured severe human rights abuses.
According to EHRC, its team has reviewed the situation in Jarre camp since May 2022, and found that unlike other camps for IDPs, their “right to move was denied, and they were not provided with enough humanitarian support. They were held in shelters for several months.”
The civilians who spoke with the Commission were initially told that they would “stay until the security threat situation is investigated” however, EHRC teams observed that “they were kept in an extremely difficult situation, similar to imprisonment, without adequate humanitarian support, without investigation, and without contact with their families.” The Federal Disaster Risk Management Commission, which has been trying to provide food and non-food humanitarian support to the displaced civilians , have been forced to stop their work due to the influence of the local security forces and militants, EHRC further said.
Furthermore, EHRC said that since the camp was under the control of the federal defense forces at the time, and due to the lack of initiatives from partner humanitarian organizations to provide support, the evacuees suffered from a severe lack of food and non-food items provision; in addition there was no medical service at the camp. The monitoring team of the Commission confirmed that they were forced to move only with permissions from higher authorities and with a paid escort.
After identifying the alarming human rights situation in Jarre’s shelter center through its monitoring, the EHRC expressed the seriousness of the situation to the relevant federal and state government institutions and stated that the evacuees should be guaranteed their right to move as they have not been detained under the law. It has also been demanding that the work of identifying, investigating and holding those who are reasonably suspected of being a security threat accountable only through transparent ways and according to the law.
The Commission said it has also exchanged verbal and written messages and recommendations to higher authorities on the need to make essential humanitarian support including adequate food, shelter, clean drinking and utility water, essential sanitation materials and other supports available. It also urged that medical services should be provided in a way that takes into account the needs of evacuees who need special support.
However, before the situation improved, and due to the renewed militarized hostilities, the Commission learned that the IDPs who were in Jarre shelter camp were transferred to the Federal Police Training Institute in Awash Seven. “The commission’s efforts to visit the evacuees and monitor their current situation have failed due to the refusal of the security forces to allow the visit” until the time of publication of the statement, EHRC said. It is still expecting that the concerned officials will arrange the visit by the Commission as soon as possible, it added.
According to Dr. Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of the EHRC, if there is a situation in which restrictions can be placed on the movement of displaced persons for the sake of public peace, such restrictions should be in consideration of the safety and health and protection of the displaced persons. “He stressed that this type of restriction should be done in a way that strictly follows the principles of necessity, rationality and proportionality.”
Since the displaced people are not people under arrest by law, the Commission urged that the work of identifying, investigating and holding to account those who are reasonably suspected of being a security threat should be carried out immediately in accordance with the law. “All the other displaced people should be guaranteed their right to move immediately,” the EHRC said, adding that IDPs who need to stay in shelters centers should also be transferred to a civilian station. “EHRC reiterates once again that they should be in a position to be provided with necessary and adequate humanitarian support and services (adequate food, shelter, clean drinking water, necessary hygiene materials, and medical care,” among others. AS