Ethiopia on Thursday failed to block the United Nations from funding an international committee that will investigate human rights violations by all parties in the nation’s recent war.
The International Commission of Human Rights Experts (ICHRE) on Ethiopia was created in December by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, despite strenuous objections from the government in Addis Ababa.
Led by former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the three-member commission has a renewable one-year mandate to investigate abuses committed in the country since war broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian forces and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels in the north of the country.
At a meeting of the UN General Assembly’s budget committee on Thursday, Ethiopia tried to pass a text that would block funding for the commission, but was not able to garner enough votes.
According to a chart showing a breakdown of the vote, 66 member states voted against Ethiopia, with only 27 in favor of the text and 39 abstentions. The remaining nations of the 193-member body chose not to participate.
“Look, as a matter of principle, we believe that our commission (ICHRE) agreed on by member states, by the Human Rights Council, should be funded,” said the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric.
He also stated that “whether it’s in Ethiopia or anywhere else in the world, human rights violations need to be investigated, which is a critical part of the accountability pillar.”
International NGO Human Rights Watch celebrated the vote outcome.
“U.N. member countries sent a strong message to Ethiopia today that its brazen attempt to escape accountability for war crimes and other abuses by defunding the UN’s human rights investigation is unacceptable,” said the organization in a statement.
“The U.N. should quickly get the investigation up and running,” the group demanded.
On March 24, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government announced “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately,” saying it hoped to help hasten delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.
Hours later, the rebels agreed to a “cessation of hostilities,” a new turning point in the nearly 17-month war in northern Ethiopia which has left thousands dead.
This week, the two sides have traded accusations that the other party is blocking desperately needed aid from reaching the Tigray region, where more than 400,000 have been displaced by the conflict.