The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) organised a two-day workshop on the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ethiopia’s transitional justice (TJ) process from December 14–15, 2023, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The workshop brought together over 40 representatives from diverse CSOs working at the federal and regional state level on a broad range of human rights issues, as well as civil society, focusing on specific areas or interest groups. The workshop aimed to equip participants with insights into the engagement of CSOs in transitional justice processes by drawing upon the experiences, best practices and lessons learned from other countries.

During the workshop, civil society representatives from Sierra Leone (John Caulker from Fambul Tok) and The Gambia (Imran Darboe from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation) shared their experiences in supporting the transitional justice process in their respective countries. Their contributions encompassed a range of activities, such as providing inputs to draft TJ policies, establishing working groups on TJ components, mobilising rural communities and other disadvantaged sections of society, building a database of victims, providing mental health and psychosocial support to victims, participating in the design of reparation programmes and following up on recommendations forwarded by TJ mechanisms.

The workshop included discussions on current developments in transitional justice in Ethiopia. Participants explored concrete steps taken by some CSOs to contribute to the process by raising awareness among victims and affected communities, preparing policy briefs and building capacity of relevant actors. Additionally, integrating gender throughout the TJ process, as well as the rights of specific groups, including youth, persons with disabilities, older persons, and internally displaced persons, was discussed during the workshop.

There was consensus on the importance of collaborative work among CSOs to leverage their diverse expertise and experience and to mobilise sufficient resources for meaningful contributions to the TJ process to ensure that the TJ policy design and implementation is credible, inclusive, victim-centred and human rights-compliant.

Civil society representatives at the workshop expressed their interest in forming a coalition to harmonise their contribution, ensure coherence and coordination and combine their resources for impactful work. Underscoring the crucial role of civil society in representing communities, advocating for victims, conducting research and documentation and monitoring the transitional justice process in Ethiopia, EHRC is also committed to strengthen its partnership with CSOs and facilitating technical or other support that CSOs may require.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of EHRC, stated that “transitional justice presents an unprecedented opportunity for genuine accountability, truth-seeking, reparations for victims, and legal and institutional reform in Ethiopia to ensure non-recurrence of gross human rights violations and abuses.” He added that “CSOs, EHRC and human rights defenders should seize this unique opportunity by actively contributing to the transitional justice process and ably representing the interests of victims and affected communities.”