Innovative Damages Ruling by the Eritrea- Ethiopia Claims Commission 19 Aug 2009
The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission has delivered its Final Award ordering compensation to both sides of the 1998-2000 war.

On 17 August 2009, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (EECC), based in The Hague, rendered its Final Award on Damages relating to the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission was established pursuant to Article 5 of the Peace Agreement signed in Algiers on December 12, 2000 between the Governments of the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. It was mandated to “decide through binding arbitration all claims for loss, damage or injury by one Government against the other” that “result from violations of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, or other violations of international law”.

The two Awards, published on 18 August, award compensation in respect of claims by both Eritrea and Ethiopia. All claims awarded were based on violations previously found in the EECC’s fifteen Partial and Final Awards on liability, rendered between July 1, 2003 and December 19, 2005. At the beginning of its Order the Commission declared these findings final and binding (as res judicata). It was not allowed at this stage, as Parties tried, to re-litigate claims or to present new ones.

Eritrea was awarded over US $161 million (and another US $2 for individual Eritrean claimants) for Ethiopia’s violations of jus in bello; Ethiopia is to receive a total amount of over US $174 million. Apart from compensation for Eritrea’s violations of jus in bello, this amount also includes US $87 for compensation for what was perhaps the most controversial previous finding: Eritrea’s violation of the jus ad bellum.  The Commission re-stated that it considered Eritrea responsible for a violation of Article 2, para. 4 of the UN Charter prohibiting the use of armed force. However, it identified this breach as limited as to place and time. Although Eritrea was held to have started the war, the EECC did not consider its illegal attack part of a wider, pre-planned assault (or even of an aggressive war, as Ethiopia had claimed). As a consequence, having assessed facts, it did not consider Eritrea as the sole legal responsible for all that happened throughout the two years of war.

To determine the extent of Eritrea’s liability for events a ‘sufficient causal connection’ had to be established. In establishing this connection, the EECC found that there was, broadly speaking, adequate evidence for Eritrea’s liability for events on all war fronts. To determine next, the amount of compensation awarded to Ethiopia for Eritrea’s violation of the jus ad bellum, the Commission could find only limited guidance in past jurisprudence and State practice. In its innovative and important decision, the EECC stated that while the compensation awarded to each Party is substantial, it is probably much less than each Party believes it is due: “The difficult economic conditions found in the affected areas of Ethiopia and Eritrea must be taken into account in assessing compensation here.”

At the end of the two lengthy and detailed Awards the Commission reiterates its confidence ‘that the Parties will ensure that the compensation awarded will be paid promptly, and that funds received in respect of their claims will be used to provide relief to their civilian populations injured in the war.’ 

Research File: Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission

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Court Documents / Documents juridiques

Final Award on Eritrea's Damages Claims

Final Award on Ethiopia's Damages Claims

17 August 2009