UN's Ethiopia rights atrocities probe ditched

Countries had until Wednesday to put forward a draft resolution to extend their mandate or seek a further 24 hours in which to do so at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Oct 5, 2023 - 06:48
UN's Ethiopia rights atrocities probe ditched
Flag of Ethiopia. Picture: © Wasan Ritthawon/123rf.com

GENEVA, Switzerland - The United Nations' (UN) probe into human rights atrocities in Ethiopia will end next week despite investigators warning of an "overwhelming risk" of further abuses being committed in the war-ravaged country.

Countries had until Wednesday to put forward a draft resolution to extend their mandate or seek a further 24 hours in which to do so at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council.

But the international community made no attempt to prolong the investigation's mandate, the spokesman for the UN's top rights body told AFP.

"No draft resolution on Ethiopia was submitted today before 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) - the deadline for submitting draft resolutions to the Human Rights Council - and no demand for an extension of 24 hours was requested for Ethiopia," council spokesperson Pascal Sim said.

War broke out between government forces and rebels in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region in November 2020. The conflict was marked by mass atrocities by all sides.

A peace deal last November between Ethiopia's federal government and rebels in Tigray ostensibly ended the brutal two-year conflict.

The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia was set up during a special session of the Human Rights Council in December 2021, at the request of the European Union (EU).

Its mandate was then renewed in 2022.


Despite the peace deal, serious rights violations are still being committed in Ethiopia, the investigation team has concluded. They fear the conflict is spreading across the country and putting regional stability at risk in the Horn of Africa.

For several weeks, non-governmental organisations have therefore been calling on the international community to renew the investigation's mandate.

All eyes were on the EU to see if they would do so.

On Tuesday, the EU and Ethiopia inked a 650-million-euro development deal during a visit to Addis Ababa by a top EU official aimed at improving ties following the end of the war in Tigray.

"It is time to gradually normalise relations and rebuild a mutual reinforcing partnership with your country," European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said in signing the deal with Ethiopia's Finance Minister Ahmed Shide.

The so-called Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP), which amounts to 650 million euros ($680 million) for the years 2024-2027, should have been concluded in 2021 but was suspended due to the Tigray conflict.


Atrocity crimes, considered to be the most serious crimes against humankind, include genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The commission found that all eight of the common risk factors are now present in Ethiopia, plus the majority of the specific risk factors, which include ongoing serious violations, widespread violence and instability, and deeply entrenched impunity.

"There is an overwhelming risk that human rights atrocities will continue," the commission warned Tuesday as they flagged their new report.

"We are gravely concerned about the situation in Ethiopia and the potential for future atrocities," commission chair Mohamed Chande Othman added.

The commission has confirmed the ongoing presence of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia, and continuing atrocities against civilians, in particular rape and other forms of sexual violence.

"There is a very real and imminent risk that the situation will deteriorate further, and it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that investigations persist," said Steven Ratner, a member of the commission.

But the investigation's mandate is now set to expire at the end of the current rights council session in Geneva, on 13 October.

AFP has requested comment from spokespersons for the Ethiopian government.

The Tigray conflict pitted Ethiopia's government forces, backed by Eritrea's army and forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara, against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

A mosaic of more than 80 ethno-linguistic communities, Ethiopia has long struggled with territorial conflicts inside its borders.