Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ethiopia awarded $10M in war damages against Eritrea

August 18, 2009 — An international claims commission awarded Ethiopia slightly more than Eritrea as it settled mutual claims worth hundreds of millions of dollars for death, injury, rape, looting and destruction during their two-year border conflict.

The awards, announced Tuesday in The Hague, concluded a complex arbitration that was part of the 2000 peace agreement closing out a border conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives.

Both countries accepted the settlement, which left Eritrea owing its archrival about $10 million (euro7.1 million). The decision was delivered to the countries Monday.

Ethiopia said it was pleased the five-member commission had blamed Eritrea for starting "this sad saga between the two countries that were dragged into war as a result of Eritrea's aggression."

The difference in compensation was small, "given the gravity of the crime," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Eritrea said it had no qualms about the settlement since it accepted the "final and binding nature" of the peace agreement — an implicit criticism of Ethiopia's rejection of the boundary fixed by the commission seven years ago which gave the key disputed town of Badme to Eritrea.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war, but their border was never demarcated. Fighting erupted in 1998 when Eritrea tried to dislodge Ethiopian troops from Badme.

The commission, set up by the 110-year-old Permanent Court of Arbitration, awarded Ethiopia damages totaling $174 million (euro123 million), including $45 million (euro32 million) for human suffering and displacement.

Eritrea was to receive more than $161 million (euro114 million), including $46 million (euro33 million) for losses by people expelled from their property. Another $2 million (euro1.5 million) was awarded to Eritrean individuals.

The five-member panel said it hoped the money would be used by the rivals in the Horn of Africa to provide relief to civilians injured by the war. It said nothing about how the awards were to be transferred.

The commission said it was aware that the compensation was much less than each country believed was their due, and was only a fraction of what each had demanded of the other.

In assessing the claims, the commission said it was "mindful of the harsh fact that these countries are among the poorest on earth," and each had submitted claims that were beyond the capacity of the other to pay.

Ethiopia had sought more than $14 billion, more than three times Eritrea's total national product in 2005. Eritrea's claims amounted to about $6 billion.

The final awards contained clear parallels: Each country was penalized $2 million for failing to prevent rape; each was punished for mistreating prisoners of war, including making them walk without shoes; each was fined for abusing civilians, denying them health care, looting their property and damaging public buildings.

Source: AP