Ethiopia’s Rejection of the Border Commission’s Decision is a Breach of International Law
Press Release
Embassy of Eritrea, Washington, D.C.

September 22, 2003

On 13 April 2002, the Eritrea - Ethiopia Boundary Commission released its internationally recognized decision on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, in accordance with the 12 December 2000 Algiers Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Rules of Procedure adopted on 20 June 2001.

From the outset, by their signatures to the Algiers Agreement, Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as their respective lawyers have been fully aware of the terms and restrictions of the Algiers Agreement and Rules of Procedure, both of which were endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Despite the clarity of these two documents, Ethiopia has repeatedly thrown the final and binding decision of the Commission into question, violating the terms of the Algiers Agreement and thus threatening to undermine the progress of the entire peace process.

The Algiers Agreement has carefully and judiciously defined the authority with which the Commission can make its decision.

Article 4.2 of the Agreement states: “The parties agree that a neutral Boundary Commission composed of five members shall be established with a mandate to delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902 and 1908) and applicable international law. The Commission shall not have the power to make decisions ex aequo et bono.

This clearly establishes that the Commission can only draw its judgment from pertinent international laws and treaties and not “ex aequo et bono” (i.e. political and demographic circumstances). Thus, the minority regime in Ethiopia that is well-known for its violation of all types of human rights cannot now claim the moral high ground over the possible dislocation of small settlements along the boundary, which are few in number and whose dislocation is improbable to occur, as a justification for stalling and undoing the decision of the Commission.

The International Community should not forget the infamous words of the Ethiopian Prime Minister who defended the mass expulsion of over 90,000 Eritreans from all over Ethiopia in his callous assertion that, “as a sovereign country, Ethiopia has the absolute right to expel anyone if it does not like the color of his eyes.” It should also not be forgotten that 15,000 Eritreans have been uprooted from 39 villages along the border and today because their land is still occupied by Ethiopian soldiers, more than 60,000 Eritreans live in makeshift camps, unable to return to their homes until the demarcation is completed.

Despite these atrocities, Eritrea has chosen to honor its commitment to the Algiers Agreement. Therefore, Ethiopia’s attempt to use humanitarian concerns as an argument for the reversal of the decision is hypocritical and illegal.

The final and binding aspect of the decision is also clear in the Algiers Agreement.

Article 4.15 affirms: “The parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined, as well as the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other party.

Moreover, Article 26 of the Rules of Procedure reiterates the condition that Commissioners are required to make their decisions using the democratic guidelines set forth in the Algiers Agreement.

Specifically, it states: “As provided in Article 4, paragraph 11 of the Agreement, all decisions of the Commission shall be made by a majority of the Commissioners, 2. In the case of an even division of votes, the President shall have the casting vote, 3. In the case of questions of procedure, when there is no majority or when the Commission so authorizes, the President may decide on his own, subject to revision, if any, by the Commission.

With these clear guidelines in place and after assessing the written and oral arguments of both parties for more than a year, the Commission on 13 April 2002 reached its UNANIMOUS decision, with no protests or dissentions logged by any of the Commissioners.

The UNANIMOUS decision, endorsed by the members of the Commission, who are among the highest and most reputable persons in international boundary litigation and resolution, reinforces the just, accurate and legal basis of the verdict. Ethiopia’s protests to the contrary are not only insulting to the responsible and thorough work completed by the Commission but also an obvious display of its irreverence to international law.

In reality, it is Eritrea, which has lost sovereign territories in the eastern and western sectors of the boundary. Indeed, when the Boundary Commission announced its award, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers issued a “triumphant” statement welcoming the decision as the “most decisive victory that the government has won” and demanded that the International Community “compel Eritrea to honor its obligations and cooperate promptly with the demarcation process.”

Moreover, exposing their deceptive tactics, Ethiopian lawyers arrogantly boasted on Ethiopian Television that “ . . . we used maximalist litigation strategy that was not revealed to the public before because of the confidentiality clause in the proceedings. This method has enabled Ethiopia to possess not only what it expected and deserved but also extra territory that never belonged to it.” As late as last month, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister informed the Ethiopian Parliament that in aggregate, Ethiopia won 200 sq km of new territory formerly not in its possession. Consistent with its maximalist approach and employing a number of pretexts including “lasting peace,” the Ethiopian regime is again trying to hoodwink the international community and to undermine the final and binding decision. Along these lines, it has requested numerous amendments to the decision and submitted a slew of objections to the Border Commission, referring to the decision as “unjust and unacceptable.” This comes after Ethiopia’s previous claims of total victory, praising the decision as “fair and appropriate” and the government “fully satisfied with the decision.” Nonetheless, all of Ethiopia’s appeals have been deemed “inadmissible” by the Commission and their requests for changes denied, underscoring that the decision has and will remain “final and binding.”

Ethiopia’s contradictory statements and attempts to reverse the final and binding decision of the Commission constitute breaches of the Algiers Agreement and international law and cannot be condoned by the International Community. Their antics have delayed the demarcation process and threaten the greater peace and stability of the region.

The guarantors of the Algiers Agreement, the United Nations, the African Union, the United States and the European Union, especially have a responsibility to see that the rule of law is respected and the decision of the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission and the demarcation are implemented expeditiously. Ethiopia, a country ravaged by drought, poverty and HIV/AIDS, should not be allowed to defy the final and binding verdict adopted by the UN Security Council or continue to incite conflicts with its neighbors while millions of its people continue to perish.

Embassy of Eritrea
Washington, DC
22 September 2003

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