The World Health Organization’s head should be probed over genocide, a claim filed with the ICC by a US Nobel Peace Prize nominee says, adding that the Ethiopian may be involved in many crimes at home.
The current World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “was a crucial decision maker in relation to security service actions that included killing, arbitrarily detaining and torturing Ethiopians,” a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) says.
Its author, an American economist and activist, David Steinman, who was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, alleges that the Ethiopian biologist and health researcher had a role in atrocities committed by various Ethiopian security forces during his tenure as a high-ranking government official.
Prior to taking up the WHO post in 2017, Adhanom Ghebreyesus first served as Ethiopia’s health minister between 2005 and 2012 and later as the nation’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2016. It was during this time that he supposedly exerted at least partial control over the nation’s repressive apparatus, Steinman claims.
The accusations leveled by the American are mostly based on a premise that, as a high-ranking government official and a senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front party, which was a major member of the ruling coalition at that time, he could not help but have a sway over the nation’s law enforcement and military.
“By virtue of his being a senior TPLF official, Tedros was one of just a handful of Ethiopian officials who exercised control over the Security Forces,” Steinman says in his complaint. He goes on to say that “unfair government tactics, including intimidation, arbitrary arrest, detention without charge” and various human rights violations hardly leave anyone an opportunity to give the Ethiopian government officials of that time, including Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “the benefit of the doubt.”
As for evidence of his accusations, Steinman mostly cites the US State Department’s human rights reports as well as accounts provided by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and various Western analytical institutions like the University of Birmingham.
None of those accounts mention Adhanom Ghebreyesus (or any Ethiopian government official for that matter) by name, as they mostly report about various instances of the nation’s security forces killing or arresting people during massive protests and riots that gripped the nation during Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ tenures as a minister, like what happened in 2016.
Still, that did not stop Steinman from outright accusing the WHO head of complicity in genocide committed by those called his “subordinates.” The complaint alleges that Adhanom Ghebreyesus supposedly oversaw “killing, and causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the Amhara, Konso, Oromo and Somali tribes with intent to destroy those tribes in whole or in part.”
Now, the ICC prosecutors must decide whether to proceed with the complaint. As a member of the UN health watchdog, Adhanom Ghebreyesus enjoys diplomatic immunity.
Still, that might not be an obstacle for his prosecution at the ICC, which is independent from the UN.The court has a history of prosecuting heads of states accused of crimes against humanity. Still, if it goes on with Steinman’s claim, it would be the first time a UN official would face trial there.