Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission
The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission was established and operates pursuant to Article 5 of the Agreement signed in Algiers on December 12, 2000 between the Governments of the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (the “December Agreement”).
The Commission was directed to “decide through binding arbitration all claims for loss, damage or injury by one Government against the other, and by nationals (including both natural and juridical persons) of one party against the Government of the other party or entities owned or controlled by the other party that are (a) related to the conflict that was the subject of the Framework Agreement, the Modalities for its Implementation and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and (b) result from violations of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, or other violations of international law.”
Pursuant to the December Agreement, the Commission is an independent body. Its seat is in The Hague, although it did meet informally with the parties elsewhere.
The Commision's composition was as follows:
Professor Hans van Houtte (President)
Judge George Aldrich (appointed by Ethiopia)
Mr. John Crook (appointed by Eritrea)
Dean James Paul (appointed by Ethiopia)
Ms. Lucy Reed (appointed by Eritrea)
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA”) served as registry to the Commission.
The Commission held informal meetings on organizational matters with representatives of the parties at the PCA’s premises in March and May of 2001. In July 2001, it held hearings on significant questions related to its jurisdiction, procedures and possible remedies. The Commission benefited from substantial memoranda filed by the parties prior to both the May and July sessions. In August 2001, the Commission issued its Decisions Numbers 1-5. These address significant jurisdictional and procedural issues bearing on the preparation and presentation of claims. In August 2001, representatives of the Commissions and of both parties met informally with claims experts from the International Organization on Migration to discuss technical issues related to the design and implementation of possible mass claims filing systems. During this period, the Commission provided additional procedural guidance in several letters to the parties.
In October 2001, following consultations with the parties, the Commission adopted its Rules of Procedure. As required by Article 5(7) of the December Agreement, the Commission’s Rules are based on the PCA’s Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes Between States, adapted to reflect the Commission’s mandate and anticipated workload.
In December 2001, both parties filed their claims in compliance with the 12 December 2001 filing deadline established by Article 5(8) of the December Agreement. Neither party utilized the possibility, created by Chapter Three of the Commission’s Rules, of filing claims utilizing possible mass claims procedures. State-to-state claims were filed on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia. The Government of Eritrea filed claims on its behalf, as well on behalf of named individuals. The claims filed by the parties relate to such matters as the conduct of military operations in the front zones, the treatment of POWs and of civilians and their property, diplomatic immunities and the economic impact of certain government actions during the conflict. Although the total number of claims filed by each party differs, several of Ethiopia’s claims include extensive sub-elements. Accordingly, the overall scope of the issues raised in the two parties’ claims appears broadly similar.
After the claims were filed, the Commission analyzed the initial filings and requested and received the parties’ views regarding the priorities and sequence for its work. Taking account of the views of both parties, in February 2002, the Commission scheduled the filing of statements of defense in all claims. Both parties have filed all of their statements of defense in accordance with this schedule. (The Commission’s February 2002 order indicated that the Commission did not expect to authorize additional time for the statements of defense, and it has not done so.) The Commission decided to bifurcate its further work by dealing first with issues of liability and only subsequently with the determination of damages.
In May 2002, the Commission identified the first three sets of claims for oral hearings, and set the dates for hearings on liability, memorials and counter-memorials in those claims. The Commission decided to begin with the two parties’ claims alleging mistreatment of their respective prisoners of war; followed by their claims of misconduct related to the armed conflict in the Central Front; followed by their allegations of mistreatment of civilians. Memorials and some counter-memorials have been filed in these three groups of cases as ordered. Following an informal meeting with the parties in July 2002, the Commission also established a schedule for the filings and initial hearings in all of the remaining claims. In August 2002, the President of the Commission met in Geneva with officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This meeting sought to determine whether the ICRC would consent to the parties’ use in the POW claims of certain materials originated by the ICRC and in the parties’ possession. The ICRC was not prepared to consent to such use by the parties.
The Commission’s hearings on the parties’ prisoner of war claims took place as scheduled over ten hearing days at the Peace Palace in December 2002. The Partial Awards are available below.
In light of requests received from both parties, the Commission in February 2003 adjusted its schedule of future filings and hearings to take account of requirements resulting from other proceedings involving the parties and of the breadth and complexity of the work remaining to be done. Throughout this process, the Commission and the parties have worked cooperatively, with a view to expeditious and orderly resolution of the Commission’s caseload. The Commission and the parties have met informally several times to discuss possible means for focusing and facilitating the claims process. (The December Agreement calls for the Commission to endeavor to complete its work within three years of the closing date for filing claims.)
On September 1, 2003, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia asked the Commission to provide an interpretation of the partial award in Ethiopia's claim under Article 21 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure. After receiving the views of both parties, the Commission declined that request expressing doubts whether it involved a matter of interpretation for purposes of the Rules.
The Commission also noted that the specific provisions cited in the request related to matters different from the subject of the request. Emphasizing that providing an interpretation lies in its discretion, the Commission recalled the great volume of pending work and the parties' and Commission's common determination to complete it in an expeditious and orderly way.
The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the Central Front claims from both parties from 11 to 21 November 2003. The Partial Awards, released on April 28, 2004, are available below.
The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the Home Front claims from both parties from 9 to 19 March 2004.The Partial Awards, released on December 17, 2004, are available below.
The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the parties’ remaining liability claims in April 2005. The Awards, as well as the Commission's Decision No. 6, released on December 19, 2005, are available below.
The Commission held the first round of hearings in the damages phase in April 2007. The Commission issued Decision No. 7 “Guidance Regarding Jus ad Bellum Liability”, and Decision No. 8 “Relief to War Victims” on July 27, 2007. The Decisions are available below.
The Commission held the second round of hearings in the damages phase in May 2008.
The Commission rendered its Final Awards on Damages in each Party's Claims on August 17, 2009.
General information on the activities of the Commission was provided by the Chairman for inclusion in the first report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Security Council, which can be downloaded here in PDF:
Progress Report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, September 4, 2003
UN Doc. S/2003/858
Progress report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, June 19, 2001
UN Doc. S/2001/608
Prisoners of War - Eritrea's Claim 17
Prisoners of War - Ethiopia's Claim 4
Central Front - Eritrea's Claims 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 22
Central Front - Ethiopia's Claim 2
Civilians Claims – Eritrea’s Claims 15, 16, 23 & 27-32
Civilians Claims – Ethiopia's Claim 5
Western Front, Aerial Bombardment and Related Claims - Eritrea's Claims 1, 3, 5, 9-13, 14, 21, 25 & 26
Western and Eastern Fronts - Ethiopia's Claims 1 & 3
Diplomatic Claim - Eritrea's Claim 20
Diplomatic Claim - Ethiopia's Claim 8
Loss of Property in Ethiopia Owned by Non-Residents - Eritrea's Claim 24
Economic Loss Throughout Ethiopia - Ethiopia's Claim 7
Jus Ad Bellum - Ethiopia's Claims 1-8
Pensions - Eritrea's Claims 15, 19 & 23
Ports - Ethiopia's Claim 6
Eritrea's Damages Claims
Ethiopia's Damages Claims
Press Release August 17, 2009