The government of Ethiopia has requested the African Union for help in ending the mandate of the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), which was set up to look into human rights abuses committed by all sides of the conflict in northern Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has been working on a resolution to end the mandate of the Commission, which it plans to submit to the UN Human Rights Council soon. The UNHRC established the Commission in December 2021. Since the two-year war ended and the Pretoria agreement entered into force last November, Ethiopia has introduced the “transitional justice policy” to remedy the wartime violations.
“It is in this conviction that Ethiopia has prepared a resolution for the Council’s consideration on terminating the Commission’s mandate. This resolution will be presented at the Council’s upcoming session. Ethiopia calls on this body to endorse our resolution and assist us in terminating this unwarranted mandate,” Demeke Mekonen, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Ethiopia, said during his opening remarks to the Executive Council Session of the AU on February 15, 2023.
The government formed an inter-ministerial taskforce, which is collaborating with the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. While Ethiopia prefers that transitional justice be handled by local institutions, the EU, UN, and US have insisted on an independent international body doing the job.
Ethiopia has been objecting to the Commission’s mandate since its inception. However, the Commission has accused the Ethiopian government of denying it access to send experts to conflict areas and gather evidence.
The last time Ethiopia requested that the UNHRC defund the Commission was in December 2022. Ethiopia’s request failed after 71 UN member states voted against it.
Two weeks ago, Misganu Argaw (Amb.), state minister of MoFA, also requested EU ambassadors and Tracey Ann Jacobson (Amb.), Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, to assist Ethiopia to terminate the mandate of the Commission.
“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 said.
Similarly, Meles Alem (Amb.), spokesperson of MoFA, also told the media over the week that Ethiopia is talking with African leaders on the sidelines of the AU summit. “We are asking them to support the post-conflict reconstruction activities in Ethiopia. We are also clearing up the ambiguities created by the west under the disguise of human rights.”
During his speech at the AU, Demeke also reiterated similar sentiments.
“This Commission could undermine the AU-led peace process and the implementation of the peace agreement with inflammatory rhetoric. It could also undermine the efforts of national institutions,” Demeke said. “Ethiopia upholds its international obligations, and by opposing the mandate of this Commission, it is not evading its responsibilities.”
He reiterated that accountability would be ensured for every alleged violation of human rights. He says the Commission disregarded the accountability initiatives the Ethiopian government is undertaking and has produced a flawed and politically motivated report.
“To our regret, the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of this Commission for an additional period of one year, despite opposition from African members of the Council,” Demeke said.
Once Ethiopia sends the resolution to the UN human rights council, it is likely to ask AU member states to vote on it at the AU meetings in July or August 2023.