01 Dec. 2020
THE HAGUE , NETHERLANDS – American journalist and Ethiopian expert David Steinman has charged world health organization (WHO) boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Steinman said at a digital news conference that Tedros was guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity because he did nothing to prevent wrongdoing by government officials during his time as Ethiopia’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2016.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a familiar face as boss of the World Health Organization (WHO). (C) EPA
Tedros has diplomatic immunity as boss of the WHO, but that should not be an impediment to prosecuting the Ethiopian, according to Steinman. Immunity has not been an obstacle to the ICC in heads of state, but a prosecution of director-general working for a UN organisation has not been seen before.
“Tedros was too big a part of the system not to have been responsible for the misdeeds committed by government officials,” Steinman said.
Experts wonder how likely an indictment is. Without reading the complaint, they question whether Tedros is the right person to prosecute. “Has Tedros’s specific role in these crimes been so great and there are no others with a greater role?” asks Göran Sluiter, professor of international criminal law at the University of Amsterdam. Professor of international relations at Tilburg University Mirjam van Reisen agrees.
Tedros hails from the Tigray region where a bloody conflict is now underway between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the current Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian army has accused him of helping local authorities in the rebel-held region. Tedros is a member of the TPLF.
Country of origin
Steinman said he has so far only charged Tedros because the Ethiopian government issued arrest warrants 10 days ago for Ethiopia’s other high-ranking leaders from 1991 to 2018 when the TPLF was in power in Ethiopia. “The ICC does not prosecute people who are also being prosecuted in the country where the acts took place.”
According to the journalist, who has long been an adviser to opposition members in Ethiopia, the charges have now been filed because the WHO “cannot be led by a criminal at the time of a pandemic.”