They demand justice for human rights violations in Ethiopia
Human rights advocates from around the world have requested that the United Nations Human Rights Council reject Ethiopia’s bid to prematurely terminate the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia’s (ICHREE). The ICHREE was established to investigate war crimes committed in northern Ethiopia and in the Oromia regional state.
With the Council in the midst of its 52nd meeting, where Ethiopia is anticipated to make its next move, a number of international human rights organizations have issued statements during the past week. Sessions of the Council will continue until April 4, 2023. An oral presentation from the ICHREE is also anticipated.
On March 3, 2023, Amnesty International added its voice to the 62 international civil society organizations that had previously requested the Council, saying that it was worrying that Ethiopia sought to discontinue the ICHREE’s work.
“The Ethiopian government’s efforts demonstrate its lack of commitment to delivering justice for the millions who have suffered gross human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, during the conflict in northern Ethiopia,” Flavia Mwangovya, Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said.
Calls from the rights group intensified after Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonen, asked the African Union and its members a few weeks ago to back Ethiopia’s move to terminate its mandate.
“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,” stated Demeke. “Ethiopia calls on this August body to endorse our resolution and assist us in terminating this unwarranted mandate.”
Human rights groups contend that justice and accountability are necessary for lasting peace, but Ethiopian officials say doing so would undo the peace dividend achieved since the Pretoria accord.
A resolution will likely be presented by Ethiopia at the current Council summit. Last December, a similar motion was overwhelmingly rejected. The majority of western countries, as well as many South American and Asian nations, voted against Ethiopia, while the majority of African nations voted in favor.
Yet, with Demeke’s plea for African members’ support and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) visit to Europe, African countries may have a greater voting presence in the next round than Western ones.
Flavia argues that the Council’s credibility will suffer if the Commission’s tasks are terminated.
“There will be serious consequences for the credibility of the Council and its approach to serious human rights situations in the global south if its members agree with the Ethiopian government and vote to end the work of the ICHREE.”
Flavia believes the Council members should show solidarity and make it clear they will vote down any proposal that undermines the ICHREE’s authority.
“The ICHREE should be allowed to fulfill its full mandate and be able to access all areas in the country, including the Oromia Region, where there are reports of numerous cases of human rights abuses and violations.”
The ICHREE, which was set up by the Council in December 2021, has been complaining that the Ethiopian government has made it impossible to get to the war zones. The Ethiopian government, on the other hand, is implementing a transitional justice policy to promote accountability through domestic human rights procedures.
Gedion Timotwos (PhD), minister of justice, during his speech at the Council’s meeting on February 28, 2023, stated that “despite its reservations towards ICHREE, the government of Ethiopia has been exerting efforts in an attempt to find common ground with the commission.”
Gedion said that it was regrettable that the Commission, which was established despite opposition from the African members of the Council, disregarded this effort of the government to foster cooperation and opted to proceed in a way that was counterproductive and unhelpful.