The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) extended the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) with a majority vote. The council voted on October 7, 2022, after the resolution on the situation of human rights in Ethiopia, which was sponsored by the EU, was tabled for voting.
While 21 members of the council voted in favor of the resolution, 19 voted against it and seven abstained. The bill was approved by a slight majority of two votes.
The UNHRC established the Commission in December 2021, with its mandate to expire in one year. It was established to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law in Ethiopia since the war broke out in northern Ethiopia on November 4, 2022.
With its secretariat based in Entebe, Uganda, ICHREE has three commissioners, each designated from Gambia, Kenya, and the US. While the commission’s mandate is to expire currently, it presented its first report just last month, indicating there are unfinished jobs. The Ethiopian government, which has strongly opposed the formation of the commission from its inception, rejected the report.
European countries, Latin American nations, and the US are among the members who voted in favor of the resolution to extend the mandate of the commission. African countries, China, India, and the UAE were among those who voted against the bill.
The council, particularly EU member countries, insisted the ICHREE was not given adequate access to investigate the crimes and decided it needed additional time and budget to pursue its task.
On the other hand, China strongly opposed the resolution to extend its mandate.
“Human rights issues should not be politicized. The resolution is a tool devised to continue pressuring developing countries like Ethiopia,” China’s representative to the UNHRC said.
Similarly, Namibia’s representative to the council stated, “The issue of international security is not the mandate of the ICHREE.”
But above all, Zenebe Kebede (Amb.), Ethiopia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, exerted extra effort to reverse the bill, to no avail.
“Ethiopia categorically rejects L.19. In particular, it ignored the efforts of the Ethiopian government, Joint Investigative Team (JIT report) and Inter-Ministerial Taskforce (IMTF), which are trying to hold accountable all parties to the crimes. In particular, the IMTF is finalizing preparing a roadmap to ensure transitional justice in Ethiopia,” Zenebe said during the voting session.
He reiterated that ICHREE was created to hand-twist the Ethiopian government from the beginning. “The ICHREE’s previous report is politically motivated and full of unsubstantiated allegations. This resolution only seeks to extend the pressure on the government of Ethiopia for the next year. The EU proposed L.19, knowing the Ethiopian government’s commitment to peace. This is unacceptable,” the ambassador said.
The US Congress passed a resolution this week demanding that Ethiopia accept the International Court of Justice, among other things. If the ICHREE establishes cases that prove war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed, the cases will go to the international court system, whether the warring parties make peace or not.
The federal government and the TPLF-led rebel group in Tigray are lately responding to the AU’s explicit call for a peace conference in South Africa, which was scheduled for today but postponed due to logistical reasons.