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HomeOpinionThe ugly faces of HRW and Amnesty (Tibebe Samuel Ferenji)

The ugly faces of HRW and Amnesty (Tibebe Samuel Ferenji)

Tibebe Samuel Ferenji

 Tibebe Samuel Ferenji  

Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) received the Nobel Prize in 1977 for the work they have done advocating for the protection of human rights. In this article, the writer has no intention of demonizing everything these organizations contributed to the betterment of our world and the improvement of human rights protections in many parts of the world. Like any organization, these organizations have exhibited bias and corrupt practices and are influenced by political actors who are not well-intentioned. Since these organizations function with the contribution of others, and they use their reports in the misery of others to raise funds, serious of studies must be done to examine the accuracy of their reports and how money is a factor and influences the quality of their human rights violations reporting. 

The purpose of this piece is to show how politically and financially motivated and how bias these organizations are in their reports regarding their reports related to conflict currently raging in Ethiopia. As a concerned citizen of Ethiopia, this writer has used the reports of these organizations in the past as a reference on many occasions to advocate for the protection of human rights in Ethiopia. A few months ago, this writer wrote a piece titled “Amnesty: Don’t kill the messenger” defending Amnesty’s report on Ethiopia. My mother used to say ‘it would be hard to criticize those you have praised in the past. Either to praise or criticize anyone, facts must dictate opinions. Since the law enforcement operation began in Ethiopia, the facts have exposed the ugly faces of HRW and Amnesty International; and their one-sided false reports are nakedly visible to the world. Therefore, we have the responsibility to inform the world of the dangerous political discourse of these organizations masked as a “human rights report”. We can’t just turn a blind eye and ignore such consequential “Human Rights Reports”.  We have witnessed the reports influenced by the TPLF hired guns, propagandists who claim to be journalists, and officials of various international “aid agencies” who have displayed ulterior motives to debunk the Ethiopian government. Arguably the recent conduct of these human rights organizations regarding Ethiopia is not worthy of their “Nobel Prize” and their reports on other countries’ human rights conditions must be thoroughly investigated. The major contributors that are essential to the function of these organizations must demand quality control and the overhaul of the entire management.    

In relation to their current human rights reports on Ethiopia, AI and HRW never mentioned what has been lurking beneath the TPLF rule in Tigray and did not tell us rape has been an epidemic for many years in the region. Why did they omit such critical information from their reports? No one spoke about the rapes that took place in Tigray until Dr. Abiy took power. It is then, Tigrayan women began speaking about the rape epidemic in Tigray. The Tigrayan activists told the world 3 out of 5 women in Tigray have been rape victims before the current war. In fact, the rape epidemic in Tigray was openly talked about and exposed by the “Yikono” movement in 2019. Their attempt to protest against rape in Mekelle was quashed by the TPLF. “Rape culture is ubiquitous in Tigray, oftentimes stigmatizing and shaming female rape survivors,” said one of the Tigrayan activists Meaza Gebremedhin in 2019. Most of the TPLF officials are accused of raping women and girls including raping married women. For nearly two decades, the Ethiopian Journal of Health had also published reports of widespread systemic rape in various Tigray towns, particularly in Adigrat and Mekelle. According to Awassa Guardian, “critics in the past accused former Health minister Tedros Adhanom of downplaying, defunding, and concealing those documents, as the details could potentially lead to the incrimination of high-to-mid level TPLF officials.” Tigrayan activist Abraha Desta was one of those voices who spoke out against the normalized “culture of rape” under TPLF rule. Conveniently, the apparent “culture of rape” in Tigray does not seem a concern to the likes of Fisseha Tekle of AI in particular, HRW, and AI in general. Such report did not come from TPLF opponents came directly from Tigrayan activists in Tigray who themselves have been victims of rape by the TPLF officials. Amnesty and HRW don’t tell us Ethiopian soldiers deployed in Tigray to protect the people of Tigray and the Ethio-Eritrean border have never been accused of raping Tigrayan women during their 20 years’ service in the region. Amnesty and HRW omitted facts about the “culture of rape” in Tigray by TPLF officials and other Tigrayans and that the Ethiopian soldiers have never been implicated in any rape while they served in Tigray guarding the nation against foreign forces. 

In its recent report AI claimed “Ethiopian government forces, Amhara region’s militia group, and Eritrean forces have been systematically raping and abusing hundreds of women and girls in the conflict in the country’s northern Tigray region.” What is troubling here, the recently leaked audio from various UN agencies meetings clearly indicated that there is no evidence to confirm such allegations. AI does not have any operators on the ground in Tigray; it is conducting its report interviewing “Tigrayans” fleeing to Sudan and Kenya whose allegations are suspect since we have seen reports of TPLF activists coaching women and children what to say and how to act when they are confronted by western “journalists” and human rights organizations. 

What is most troubling is the failure of  AI to consider the “conflict of interest” and political bias of Fisseha Tekle, who is AI’s “researcher” for the Horn of Africa. Fisseha is an Ethiopian with his own political agenda and it is not difficult to understand how “the research” he presents to Amnesty can easily be tainted with false data. Amnesty should prevent anyone from taking part in any report or research when that particular person’s country is a subject of the report. The statement that Fisseha gave to the VOA recently clearly shows his attempt to implicate the Ethiopian government with the alleged crimes and exaggerates to attract the world’s attention. He claims “he fears Tigray could be the next Rwanda” when in fact there is no factual indication that would be the case. Tigrayans, in various parts of Ethiopia, are still living in peace with other Ethiopians. Those suspected of alleged support for the TPLF are arrested by the law enforcement agency. There is no report of any Tigrayan civilians attacked by other ordinary Ethiopians. Given this fact, how does Fisseha envision a “Rwanda type situation in Tigray”?  It is clear the motivation of Fisseha Tekle.    

In a statement he gave to the VOA, Fisseha stated “We can see that soldiers were brutalizing the survivors, they were beating them, they were using demeaning words or ethnic slurs against the victims, which shows that sexual violence was used to dehumanize the Tigrayan women in the ongoing conflict” (emphasis added). When Fisseha says “we can see” what does that mean? Did he personally witness the rape, beating, and other allegations he alleged? Was he in Tigray when the alleged rape and “brutalization” took place? If you paid attention to what he said, he did not say “the women alleged” he said “We can see” as if he was a witness to such human rights violations. Did Fisseha ask “the alleged victims” how they can be sure if those who wore the Eritrean or Ethiopian soldiers’ uniform were actually Ethiopian or Eritrean soldiers, not imposters? Moreover, AI made a serious factual error on its report when it added the “Amhara Militia” in its allegations. The fact indicates the Amhara Militia was never deployed in Tigray. It seems Fisseha used the phrase “we can see” to give some credence to those who listen to his report. 

The Italian writer di Ennio Bassi in his article titled “Corno d’Africa: il terrorismo tigrino usa infiltrati per la sua azione propagandistica destabilizzante” which means “Horn of Africa: TPLF sympathizers use infiltrators for its destabilizing propaganda action” published on Associated Medias Press Agency on August 18, 2021, indicated “Prestigious NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, broadcasters such as the BBC, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, CNN, or even various UN agencies such as the UNHCR, WFP, and WHO have all been targeted, in spite of themselves, from the constant disinformation, carried out in a systematic and professional manner by an organized network of TPLF cyber militants.” It has been reported on many occasions that the TPLF placed many of its members and sympathizers in various international organizations including AI and HRW. Moreover, the TPLF is using the more than 30 billion dollars it looted from Ethiopia to hire lobbyists and influence the likes of AI and HRW. 

For anyone who closely scrutinizes the AI and HRW’s reports, it is hard to miss TPLF’s footprints. HRW in its August 18, 2021 report stated “On June 28, following eight months of fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital, Mekelle, while government forces withdrew. Tigrayan forces then moved quickly into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, triggering large-scale displacement. Since then, serious human rights violations by government security forces against ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa have escalated.” When you read between the lines, the report tells “how quickly” the TPLF pushed the ENDF. In this report, HRW does not tell us anything about the TPLF Human Rights violation except mentioning “triggering large-scale displacement”. Moreover, HRW stated “In July and August, HRW interviewed by phone eight current and former Tigrayan detainees, four Tigrayan business owners, and 25 relatives of detainees, witnesses to abuses, and lawyers. HRW also reviewed court and police documents and relevant photos.” One must wonder, why HRW does not tell us how those “25 eyewitnesses to abuse relatives’ ‘ it allegedly spoke spared from an arrest if the arrest was only based on ethnicity? This hardly is objective and reliable evidence. As most of us have witnessed the situation in Ethiopia unfolding, many ethnic Tigrayans have shown their alliance with the TPLF. Even those who vehemently opposed the TPLF in the past have now become ardent TPLF’s frontline propagandists. When the ENDF withdrew from Tigray for humanitarian reasons, some of those Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa “celebrated” hoping the TPLF was coming back to Addis Ababa. Reportedly, some were burning Ethiopian flags and chanting anti-Ethiopian slogans. 

In such difficult circumstances, it is easy to accuse the government of “ethnic profiling” from the comfort of AI and HRW’s home. Despite the difficulties, however, the government must take all the necessary possible steps to protect its nation without harming innocent people. One must take into considerations that the police may detain innocent citizens in this chaotic situation given the limited resources the police have. If and when innocent Tigrayans are arrested by the police, the police must ensure the protection of their rights and release them as soon as possible. It is proper for HRW to provide such useful advice; however, to claim that there is a widespread disappearance and detention by speaking to less than 40 people which some have ulterior motives to paint a grim picture of the Ethiopian government is an egregious error in judgment which shows the ugly faces of HRW. In addition, on several occasions, police and security forces have captured some ethnic Tigrayans engaging in illegal activities in support of the TPLF. These individuals were arrested and detained because of their alleged crimes not because they are Tigrayans.  

As a victim of ethnic profiling by the TPLF led government, this writer vehemently opposes such practice; on many occasions, this writer has written on his FB page and in his articles for the Ethiopian government not to do what the TPLF led government did to ethnic Eritreans. There are more than half a million Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa, there are Tigrayan officials in the federal government living in peace with other Ethiopians. HRW’s irresponsible narratives and reporting of such allegations without any concrete evidence proves what Ennio Bassi talking about. In his aforementioned article Bassi asserts “propaganda at every level is creating many problems for the peace process initiated in the area by Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. In Ethiopia, for example, the local personnel of these organizations are, to a large extent, ethnic Tigrayan militants who respond with military discipline to the orders of their elites, who use their considerable resources to exploit the only weapon available to them today, which is propaganda. This situation explains the one-sided media campaign in their favor, which is also supported by internal reports from these agencies, prepared mainly by people within this closely-knit group and linked to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.”

            When the likes of AI and HRW lose credibility on the world stage, harm comes to all of us. Instead of being defensive, these organizations need to examine their report gathering methods and their personnel. In addition, they need to set up a quality control mechanism to make sure the accuracy of their reports and the motive of their “researchers” and data gatherers. The omission of reports to only assist one side is nothing more than propaganda. For such propaganda, we already have the Western Media using its megaphone to report its lies and fabricate fake news. So far, AI and HRW have chosen to be silent about the massacre in Afar and Amhara regions. This speaks volumes where these organizations stand. Clearly, they are no longer organizations advocating for human rights; they have become a mouthpiece of a terrorist organization hell-bent to destroy Ethiopia. Sadly, Ethiopia is not unique in this regard. Royal Holloway, University of London study on Columbia indicates the failure of these organizations to disseminate accurate information on what took place in Columbia between 1988 and 2004. The report states “We check for internal consistency and against a unique Colombian conflict database. We find that both organizations [AI and HRW] have substantive problems in their handling of quantitative information. Problems include failure to specify sources, unclear definitions, an erratic reporting template, and a distorted portrayal of conflict dynamics.” 

The report further stated “The quantitative human rights and conflict information produced by these organizations for other countries must be viewed with skepticism along with cross-country and time-series human rights data based on AI reports”. Does this sound familiar? Let me conclude by what was suggested by the University of London “The free flow of accurate information on patterns of violence can make a critical contribution to conflict resolution. Yet warring parties tend to compete to distort the relevant information in their favor. Independent monitoring of conflict violence coupled with the public dissemination of high-quality information can, therefore, be a valuable tool for conflict resolution. Reliable and unbiased human rights (HR) reporting should be a central component of any such monitoring project.” 

HRW and AI must avoid bias and an appearance of bias if they want to remain a viable human rights advocacy organization. This writer for one has lost all the trust he had on AI and HRW, if the majority lose such hope, the world would be in more trouble than it already is. HRW and AI must immediately take corrective measures and build their credibility.  

May God Protect Ethiopia and our people. 

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  1. Thank you Tibebe and I stand with you for losing faith not just with the AI and HRW but all neoliberal institutions and ideas. They are all “fake”. Alas, we discovered this too late. Ethiopia shpuld pull out of these worthless western stooges.

  2. Thank you for an informative and well-argued piece. I am more and more convinced that AI and HRW are more militant organizations than institutions geared to finding out what is really happening around the world. The fact that they base their reports on hearsay or from individuals who have clearly been instructed to lie is in itself reason to disqualify them from any serious conversation on the war.

  3. Dear Tubebe
    Thank you for this. As usual well researched, gentle, and timely. Though too gentle considering their outrageous behavior, in my view.
    I, in fact, believe that they have never been honest and objective in whatever they do. The West has established these organizations, along with numerous so called NGOs, disguised as forces for good, to support and promote their imperialistic agendas around the world.

    You recommend that they should improve their research methods, data collection, etc. I can’t help smiling. The management of these organizations do what they do deliberately with a specific objective they must meet. Therefore, I believe they know the conclusion, the message, and purpose even before the report is written. The pretense of research is a game; it is no more than talking to some people they have previously coached.

    You say they were winners of the Nobel Prize in 1977. But that was the time when ‘dinosaurs walked the earth’, considering the information and communication technology advancements attained now. Then society didn’t have the means to check what they were reporting. Thinking of it, we even thought the BBC, VOA, AFP, the Guardian, etc. reported the truth. Simply, we have been coned. But the world has awakened.

  4. The situation in Ethiopia and looking at the true colors of those neoliberal institution has made it clear not to trust those groups any more. Actually it is better to never allow them to work in Ethiopia or any where else in the world because they are the main cause of humans sufferings. It is time for the world to keep a note.
    Going against elected government and knowing very well why Ethiopians do not want to see the TPLF Tigrea Terrorist any way near, those neoliberal institutions kept on going with continuing support, the notorious brutal dictators of three decade, the TPLF Tigrea Terrorists’ to share power as noble group.

    Those neoliberal groups covered with humanitarian names have different agenda other than saving humans or victims from brutal dictators. As long as they are in control to run their hidden agenda they will go supporting TPLF Tigrea Terrorist or that is known to have committed all kinds of human sufferings, brutality and ethnic cleansings.

  5. It is an interesting article. I hope the Amnesty people will read it and say something in reply to the statement of facts therein.


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