The United Nations member states rejected a proposal to suspend funding the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), which was established to investigate human rights violations perpetrated during the war in Tigray as well as conflict in Oromia.
Ethiopia has consistently requested that the ICHREE be defunded since the commission was established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in December 2021. Ethiopia claimed that the ICHREE was politicizing human rights breaches in Ethiopia and that human rights reports issued by the local human rights commission were adequate.
During the voting held yesterday, 71 member states opposed the idea of defunding the commission. This included the majority of Western countries. From Africa, only Botswana objected to the defunding idea. On the other hand, 50 member states abstained, largely Middle Eastern nations including Egypt and Libya.
Only 32 member countries voted in favor of defunding the commission. This includes most African countries, including Kenya, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, and Somalia. China and Russia also voted to defund the commission.
As a result, the UN will continue to provide resources for the commission to conduct its mission.
Back in October, UN member states were also divided with similar inclinations while voting over the extension of ICHREE’s mandate by an additional year. ICHREE’s mandate, which was originally established with a one-year mandate, would have expired by this December.
Based in Entebbe, Uganda, the three commissioners of the ICHREE have been complaining about a shortage of finance to recruit staff and undertake its mission.
Kaari Betty Murungi told the UN Human Rights Council in her most recent update report that ICHREE is making progress while also facing challenges. “The Commission was not allocated sufficient resources to fill the number of staff positions it needs and still requires additional resources.”
She emphasized that the Ethiopian government still has not granted entry for the ICHREE to access the conflict area and conduct its investigation, despite the Ethiopian government’s statements back in May.
“We are seeking to meet and engage with victims and witnesses in conflict-affected areas, as well as with the government and other stakeholders,” Murungi said. “We are also seeking access to survivors, victims, witnesses, and stakeholders in countries neighboring Ethiopia, including those hosting refugees from the conflict.”
Murungi says such access is central to the commission’s work. “We also wish to meet with regional institutions based in Ethiopia. We are hopeful that our past consultations with the Ethiopian government will result in access for our investigators to sites of violations to be identified and to survivors, victims, and witnesses,” added the commissioner.
ICHREE also requested that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission access related materials in their custody and build on the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report that covered the first round of the two-year war in northern Ethiopia.
The JIT report detailed a series of violations and abuses, including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians.
The report covers the period from November 3, 2020, when the armed conflict began between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF), the Amhara Special Forces (ASF), the Amhara Fano, and other militias on one side, and the Tigrayan Special Forces (TSF), Tigrayan militias, and other allied groups on the other, until June 28, 2021, when the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire.
It also stated that there were reasonable grounds to believe that forced displacements were committed on a broad scale and without lawful justification, in violation of conventional and customary international humanitarian law. Such acts may also amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The two-year war in northern Ethiopia ended after the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace agreement on November 2, 2022, in Pretoria, South Africa.
Officials from the Ethiopian government say that there will be transitional justice in the conflict areas, but human rights experts say that the government is trying to avoid accountability.
However, the US and the EU are pressing the Ethiopian government to allow entry for ICHREE as a precondition to regaining AGOA, among others.