(Source: Aigaforum.com, By Isaac M, Mekelle, 24 February 2021) –
In the last few days disturbing faces of Tigrayan peacekeepers covered with blood at Juba airport of South Susan has been circulating in social media outlets. Sudan Tribune reported that: ‘15 Ethiopian peacekeepers who accomplished their duty with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are reportedly being harassed indiscriminately for their Tigray ethnicity by the Ethiopian army’.
But this is not the only incident. In November 2020 a leaked UN report disclosed the potential that Tigrayan members of United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions are under threat of torture, enforced return and murder.
This is an extension of the ethnic cleansing and the genocidal war declared against Tigrayans both within and outside Tigray. It is crazy that such crimes are extended to members of UN peacekeepers and also some UN officials of Tigray origin
Dictator and childish Abiy Ahmed is talking about the rise of Ethiopia, while sponsoring and commanding such unacceptable act of shame for his own regime and the country. The regime is implicated in a reprehensible act of discriminating, torturing and assaulting Tigrayans while serving as UN and AU peacekeepers in South Sudan and Somalia.
In the last three decades, Ethiopia has been seen as an exemplary and a top peacekeeping personnel contributor in the international community. It has deployed its peacekeepers to Rwanda, South Susan, Sudan and Somalia, amongst other crisis . It has to be noted too that it deployed its troops to the Korean war at the call of the United Nations to repels aggression.
A country once known as an exemplary in the field of international peacekeeping and peace enforcement is now turned in to peacekeepers’ torturer, assailant and abuser.
Anyone who has a basic knowhow of googling the World Web should be able to find out the moral and legal consequences of such a blatant breach of trust and law.
The 1994 Convention on the Safety of UN Personnel points out that:
“The States Parties to this Convention [are] deeply concerned over the growing number of deaths and injuries resulting from deliberate attacks against United Nations and associated personnel and [bear] in mind that attacks against, or other mistreatment of, personnel who act on behalf of the United Nations are unjustifiable and unacceptable, by whomsoever committed”.
The last bit of the message must be stressed; any assault against peacekeepers ‘by whomsoever committed’ not acceptable.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court under Article 8(2) (b) and (e) (iii) criminalises deliberately assaulting peacekeepers as a war crime.
The International Law Commission (ILC)’s Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996) in Article 19 criminalises attacks against peacekeepers as a crime against the peace and security of mankind ‘when committed intentionally and in a systematic manner or on a large scale against United Nations and associate personnel involved in a United Nations operation’.
The ILC Commentary on Article 19 underscores that:
“Attacks against United Nations and associated personnel constitute violent crimes of exceptionally serious gravity which have serious consequences not only for the victims, but also for the international community … Attacks against such personnel are in effect directed against the international community and strike at the very heart of the international legal system established for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security … The international community has a special responsibility to ensure the effective prosecution and punishment of the individuals who are responsible for criminal attacks against United Nations and associated personnel”.
The UN is expressing alarm about what is happening; giving them protection by the South Sudan government in collaboration with relevant UN agencies should be acclaimed. This does not suggest however that the UN is doing enough to reject such a dangerous precedent –targeting peacekeepers an part of a wider ethic profiling, war crimes and genocide. If the UN is not able to protect its own peacekeepers, how is it going to protect other innocent civilians?
Clearly, what is happening by the Abiy regime is not only a national disgrace but also a potential international crime–Shame on you Abiy Ahmed and Co. With proper inquiry and evidence collection by a neutral body, those who are involved in assaulting, torturing and abusing Tigrayan peacekeepers along their commanders and political leaders must be hold accountable for the torture, murder and assault they are committing. The names of those who have carried out along their commanders must also be revealed to the international public.
It is imperative that the UN and the African Union undertakes a proper inquiry into the crimes committed and enhance its protection to the remaining Tigrayan peacekeepers before it is too late. Those who are calling for justice and accountability in connection with the Tigray war must also include the crimes and perpetrators against peacekeepers of Tigrayan origin in their list of crimes and alleged criminals.