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Between 1998 and 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia were engaged in an international armed conflict along several areas of their common border. Article 5 of the Agreement between the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea of 12 December 2000 established an independent claims commission, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (EECC), regarding loss, damage and injury suffered by each of the parties as a result of alleged violations of international law occurring during the conflict.
Among other claims, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of dropping cluster bombs that killed and wounded civilians and damaged property in the vicinity of the Ayder School and the surrounding neighbourhood in Mekele town. Ethiopia stated that those bombs killed 53 civilians, including 12 school children, and wounded 185 civilians, including 42 school children. On 12 December 2001, Ethiopia filed a claim with the Commission relating to these and other events. Further statements and evidence were lodged with the Commission by both sides between April 2002 and October 2003.
The Commission held that Eritrea conducted four sorties involving cluster munitions that resulted in two strikes hitting Mekele airport and two strikes hitting the Ayder neighbourhood in Mekele. Nevertheless, the Commission was not prepared to draw the conclusion urged by Ethiopia that the attacks on civilians had been intentional, as it was not convinced that Eritrea had deliberately targeted a civilian neighbourhood. However, the Commission expressed serious concerns about the manner in which the bombing operations were carried out. It declared that the failure of two out of four bomb runs to come close to their intended targets ‘clearly indicates a lack of essential care in conducting them, compounded by Eritrea’s failure to take appropriate actions afterwards to prevent future recurrence.’ Accordingly, the Commission found Eritrea liable for failing to take all feasible precautions to prevent two of its military aircraft from dropping cluster bombs in the vicinity of Ayder school and its civilian neighbourhood and for the resulting injuries and deaths.For a discussion, see, V. Wiebe, 'For Whom the Little Bells Toll: Recent Judgments by International Tribunals on the Legality of Cluster Munitions', Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 4 (2008), pp. 904-16.
Last updated on: 08 August 2017