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Ethiopia sought EU, US for support in ending mandate of UN human rights experts

The Ethiopian government is renewing its efforts to persuade the international community to end the mandate of the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), claiming that the commission’s work undermines the Pretoria Peace Agreement.

Officials of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Justice and Foreign Affairs reiterated the issue during a meeting with EU ambassadors on February 3, 2023.

“The mandate of the Commission undermines the Pretoria Peace Agreement and ongoing cooperation between the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Mesganu Arga (Amb.), state minister for Foreign Affairs, told the EU ambassadors during the meeting.

The ICHREE overstepped its mandate by participating in politically motivated activities, the statement from MoFA reads.

Minister of Justice, Gedion Timotheos (PhD), presented “Policy Options for Transitional Justice in Ethiopia” to the ambassadors. The document is prepared to address the current socio-political realities of the country based on accountability, truth-seeking, redress for victims, and reconciliation and healing.

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During his meeting with Tracey Ann Jacobson (Amb.), Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Ethiopia, Misganu “asked the US to support Ethiopia’s bid in terminating the mandate of the highly politicized ICHREE,” according to MoFA.

Despite appreciating the progress made in implementing the Pretoria agreement, both the EU and US ambassadors did not hint at any change in policy regarding the fate of the ICHREE.

“We commend the parties for their commitment to the cessation of hostilities agreement and encourage continued implementation, including ensuring the protection of civilians through international human rights monitoring as well as following through on accountability for human rights abuses and transitional justice,” Ned Price, US state department spokesperson, said during his briefing on February 2, 2023.

During the same time, the US spokesperson said for the first time that Eritrean forces have been pulling out of Tigray over the past few weeks.

Ethiopia has been objecting to the Commission’s mandate since its inception by the UN Human Rights Council in December 2021. The Commission was formed to investigate the human rights violations committed during the two-year war in the northern part of Ethiopia. However, the Commission has accused the Ethiopian government of denying it access to send experts to conflict areas to gather evidence.

The last time Ethiopia requested that the UNHRC defund the commission was in December 2022. Ethiopia’s request failed after a majority of 71 UN member states voted against it. All EU members, the US, and other western countries voted in this category at the time.

In the meantime, as Ethiopia woos the EU and US, tangible progress toward normalization is also underway between the federal government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders.

On February 3, 2023, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) met leaders of the TPLF at Halala Kella, in the south-west regional state. The PM’s meeting with TPLF officials is the first since the war broke out two years ago. During their meeting, federal and TPLF officials talked about how well the Pretoria agreement was being implemented.

Observers believe that if the federal government’s maneuvers succeed, the UN might refrain from extending the Commission’s mandate and instead strip it gradually.

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