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Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission issues partial awards against both parties, citing violations of customary international law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, has issued six partial war-related awards. The 1998-2000 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia claimed the lives of an estimated 70,000 people. The Commission was established by Eritrea and Ethiopia through an agreement signed on December 12, 2000, in Algiers. The purpose is to decide any damage claims that the two countries have against each other. The Commission issued its first decisions in August 2001.

The applicable law of the following awards is customary international law, including customary international humanitarian law as exemplified by relevant parts of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Eritrea and Ethiopia acceded to the 1949 Geneva Conventions on August 14, 2000. The awards of December 19, 2005 are:

- Partial Award - Prisoners of War - Eritrea's Claim 17: Ethiopia held approximately 2,600 Eritrean Prisoners of War (POWs). Ethiopia is liable for failing to prevent abuse of Eritrean POWs, frequently depriving Eritrean POWs of footwear during long walks, forced indoctrination of Eritrean POWs, deficient nutrition and medical care of Eritrean POWs, and delaying their repatriation in 2002.

- Partial Award - Prisoners of War - Ethiopia's Claim 4: Eritrea held approximately 1,100 Eritrean POWs. Eritrea is liable, for example, for refusing Red Cross access to Ethiopian POWs, failing to protect the lives of Ethiopian POWs at and after capture, permitting physical abuse of Ethiopian POWs, depriving Ethiopian POWs of footwear during long walks, the confiscation of personal property of the Ethiopian POWs, and for failing to provide for the bare necessities of the Ethiopian POWs.

- Partial Award - Central Front - Eritrea's Claims 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 22: Ethiopia is liable, for example, for its actions of military personnel, including the looting and stripping of buildings in Tserona Town and its cemetery during occupation, the destruction of several buildings, and failing to prevent rapes committed by its soldiers.

- Partial Award - Central Front - Ethiopia's Claim 2: Eritrea is liable, for example, for the physical abuse of civilians, permitting the looting and stripping of Zalambessa Town, the unlawful destruction of 75 percent of the structures of the same town, not preventing the rapes committed by its soldiers, and not taking precautions to prevent two of its aircraft from dropping cluster bombs near a school and its residential neighborhood.

- Partial Award - Civilians Claims - Eritrea's Claims 15, 16, 23 & 27-32: Ethiopian nationals who acquired Eritrean nationality through qualifying to participate in the 1993 referendum on Eritrean self-determination acquired dual nationality of both countries. Ethiopia is liable, for example, for erroneously depriving some Ethiopians who were not dual nationals of their Ethiopian nationality, and permitting local farmers, militia or police to forcibly expel rural people who were mostly Ethiopian from rural areas near the border.

- Partial Award - Civilians Claims - Ethiopia's Claim 5: Eritrea is liable, for example, for failing to protect Ethiopian in Eritrea who were not in detention from violence by police and the civilian population, detaining Ethiopians without a legal basis, and for failing to ensure the safe and humane repatriation of departing Ethiopians.

Nine claims remain pending with the Commission.

Citation: Permanent Court of Arbitration, Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, Partial Awards issued on December 19, 2005. The written decisions are available on the website of the Court at; Reuters press release of December 21, 2005, published on
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Publication:International Law Update
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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