A survivor from Tigray region, waits at a UNFPA-supported facility for women and girls who have been subjected to gender-based violence. Photo: UNFPA

Addis Abeba: Amnesty International USA urged Antony Blinken, United States secretary of state, to tailor human rights issues at the heart of conversation with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as it is a very critical time.

The request followed the announcement of Blinken’s trip to Ethiopia next week.

Blinken will visit Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, on March 15, where he will discuss implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement to advance peace and promote transitional justice in northern Ethiopia, said the state department. He will also meet humanitarian partners and civil society actors to discuss humanitarian assistance delivery, food security, and human rights.

“Secretary Blinken’s trip to Ethiopia comes at a critical time in the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) and when the Ethiopian government is actively mobilizing support to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE),” Kate Hixon, Africa Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, said. “United States and international community engagement remains vital, and it is positive to see the Secretary prioritizing Ethiopia.”

Last week, a group of 63 worldwide human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) appealed to the permanent representatives of member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council, on February 28, to reject any resolution forwarded by Ethiopia the mandate of the UN’s International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE).

The group’s appeal came in the backdrop of news that Ethiopia has circulated a draft resolution asking for the termination of the rights experts in the country.

“We write to urge your delegations to reject any resolution to prematurely terminate the mandate of ICHREE, and to express your support for the mandate and work of the Commission,” the group’s appeal reads.

Ethiopia’s latest attempt at blocking the ICHREE and its works failed in December last year when its draft resolution requesting the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly to not approve any resources was rejected by a vote of 71 against 32 in favor, whereas 50 members states abstained the vote.

It was the second failed attempt by Ethiopia to have UN’s General Assembly defund resources for the UN rights experts who were appointed by the UN to investigate war-related human rights abuses in Ethiopia. After its opposition to the formation of ICHREE, in April last year, the Ethiopian government voted to block the U.N. funding for it, unsuccessfully.

Ethiopia has also asked the United States to support its bid in terminating the mandate.

Kate Hixon insisted the US must make it clear that the Ethiopian government must provide access throughout the country to humanitarian actors and human rights monitors while putting justice and accountability for crimes committed by all parties to the conflict at the center of his engagement with Prime Minister Abiy.

“Failure to do so will send a signal to perpetrators everywhere that the US will not stand up for justice,” she said. “Secretary Blinken’s trip will miss a crucial opportunity if he does not put human rights at the heart of his conversation with Prime Minister Abiy.”

According to the statement, while humanitarian aspect has improved since the Cessation of Hostilities, access to human rights monitoring is still blocked.

“Given the failure of the Government of Ethiopia to cooperate with the ICHREE, it is critical that Secretary Blinken make clear US support for the Commission and an expectation that the Government of Ethiopia allow them unfettered access to Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia Regions and other areas,” added Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for campaigns in East Africa, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions. “The United States should not let down victims of gross human rights abuses in Ethiopia, and Secretary Blinken should use this trip as a venue to call for independent investigation, prosecution and judicial process.”

Blinken is also expected to meet with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat “to discuss shared global and regional priorities and follow up on commitments from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit regarding food security, climate and a just energy transition, the African diaspora, and global health. The Secretary will underscore U.S. support for African permanent representation in multilateral bodies,” the statement said. AS

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