News: Ethiopia loses second attempt to defund resources for UN rights experts

Millions are displaced in the Tigray region over the course of the two year war. Photo: MSF

Addis Abeba – Ethiopia’s draft resolution requesting the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly to not approve any resources for the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) was defeated on Friday by a vote of 71 against 32 in favor, whereas 50 members states abstained the vote.

This is the second failed attempt by Ethiopia to have UN’s General Assembly to 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 this year, the Ethiopian government voted to block the U.N. funding for it, unsuccessfully.

In introducing the resolution, Ethiopia argued that the text did not recognize the government’s cooperation with the Council to conduct investigations and demanded the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly, which has the responsibilities for administrative and budgetary matters, to defund resources.

Botswana is the only African country to have voted against Ethiopia’s draft resolution to defund ICHREE

ICHREE’s first report to the UN Human Rights Council presented in September this year on its initial findings of Ethiopia’s war covering “the hostilities in Tigray and Amhara regions,”concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations, such as extrajudicial killings, rape, sexual violence, and starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare have been committed in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020,” and that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that, in several instances, these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The report said grave human right violations were committed to a varied degree by the Ethiopian national defense forces, Eritrean defense forces, Amhara region forces including militia and the irregular armed group, Fano, as well as the Tigrayan forces in the course of Ethiopia’s war.

However, it was the “the widespread denial and obstruction of access to basic services, food, healthcare, and humanitarian assistance” that the Commission believes “amounts to a crime against humanity.” It also said there was “reasonable grounds to believe that the Federal Government is using starvation as a method of warfare.”

Ethiopia maintains the Commission was established for a political purposes and has had uneasy relationship with it, once accusing it of having “weaponized human rights for political pressure.”

Yesterday’s vote at the UN General Assembly to keep the funding for ICHREE comes amidst concerns by international rights organizations that the Pretoria permanent cessation of hostilities signed between the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF on November 02 falls short of clarity on victim-centered justice and access to human rights experts and independent rights monitors to all areas affected by the two-year long war.

Under “Article 2 – Principles Underpinning the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities,” the two sides agreed to be guided by “Respect for fundamental human rights and democratic norms and principles;Protection of civilians; Respect for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance; Accountability and justice in accordance with the FDRE Constitution and the AU Transitional Justice Policy Framework,” triggering calls for effective accountability for grave human rights violations committed during Ethiopia’s two year war.

The US government and the EU however continued insisting on accountability for human rights violations and abuses as well as implementation of transitional justice as part of the full implementation of the Pretoria CoHA. On 22 December, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the US was focused on making sure that it can “get independent human rights monitors into Tigray to verify that there are no ongoing atrocities, even as we’re looking for accountability for what’s already taken place.”

Similarly, in its latest statement, the EU that that “concrete progress on the implementation of the ceasefire, unimpeded humanitarian access, and accountability for International Humanitarian Law and human rights violations and abuses, will allow the gradual reestablishment of the full spectrum of EU’s development cooperation and economic support.” In October, the EU has succeeded in having a resolution renewing ICHREE’s mandate approved by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. AS

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