In the aftermath of the ‘Ethiopian Red Terror’ in the late 1970s, the former provincial governor Eshetu Alemu was tried before the Federal High Court of Ethiopia as well as the District Court of The Hague. While both courts dealt with the same material acts and circumstances, they reached diverging conclusions regarding the ‘sufficient nexus’ between (armed) conflict in Ethiopia at the time and Alemu’s acts. The main objective of this paper is to examine the existence of the ‘nexus’ necessary for an offence to be qualified as a war crime. In assessing and classifying the conflict situation in Ethiopia at the time and the status of the parties involved in the hostilities, this article finds that a non-international armed conflict only existed between the government and the secessionists, while the hostilities between the government and the ‘anti-revolutionists’ remained below the thresholds of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The article argues that the District Court of The Hague employed an overly broad interpretation in classifying the conflict and in determining the ‘nexus’ element, an approach which results in an undermining of legal certainty and the very purpose of the ‘nexus’ requirement.
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