#NewsAlert: UN rights experts due in Ethiopia next week

From left: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Kaari Betty Murungi (chair), and Steven Ratner. Pictures: Agencies/UN/Archive

Addis Abeba – Members of the U.N. appointed International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia “will be in Addis Abeba on the week of July 25,” a well placed source told Addis Standard.

The three-member experts, Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya (chair), Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka and Steven Ratner of the United States of America, will arrive with the objective to discuss with Ethiopian authorities “on the modalities for engagement with the Commission,” according to our source.

The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council created the Commission of Human Rights Experts on 17 December 2021 and mandated it to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in Ethiopia committed since 3 November 2020 “by all parties to the conflict.”

On 02 March this year the Council announced the appointment of the three-member Experts chaired by Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Ms Bensouda has since resigned and is replaced by Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.

According to Addis Standard’s source, the trip by the three experts “is the continuation of the discussions held in Geneva in March 2022 at the sidelines of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council,” where a delegation led by Ethiopia’s Minister of Justice, Dr. Gedion Timothewos discussed with the Experts. “This visit of the Commission to Ethiopia is to continue this discussion on the modalities.”

Since then, the Commission has delivered an oral update to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on 30 June on the progresses after March this year. The Expert’s chair Ms Murungi expressed alarm “by ongoing atrocities against civilians, including events reported in the Oromia Region,” she said referring to the 18 June atrocities in Western Oromia.

Furthermore, Ms Murungi cautioned that “any spread of violence against civilians, fueled by hate speech and incitement to ethnic-based and gender-based violence, are early warning indicators and a precursor for further atrocity crimes. These and the protracted humanitarian crisis including blockades to food and medical aid, supplies and services poses grave risk to the Ethiopian civilian population and the region.”

According to the Chair “the Commission has begun its work, though subject to some significant constraints. We welcome the co-operation of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” she said and requested for further “support of member states, including those to whose territory we seek access; national state governments; international and nongovernmental organizations, and the donor community.”

The Ethiopian government had initially opposed to the appointment of the Experts and in April, voted to block the U.N. funding for it, unsuccessfully. But the planned trip by the Experts indicates that the government is willing to discuss on the modalities and engagements of the Commission and its works in Ethiopia. AS

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