Special UN rights council session on Ethiopia this week

Map of Ethiopia

The UN Human Rights Council decided Monday to hold a special session on conflict-torn Ethiopia this week and will consider whether to appoint international investigators to probe widespread violations in the country.

The decision, which was slammed by the Ethiopian government, followed an official request by the European Union for the UN’s top rights body to address the deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa nation, ravaged by over a year of conflict.

“In light of the aggravating situation, we believe the international community has a moral obligation to try to prevent further atrocities and ensure accountability and justice for victims and survivors,” Lotte Knudsen, the EU ambassador in Geneva said in a statement.

The request came 13 months into a spiraling conflict between Ethiopian government forces and Tigrayan rebels that has left thousands dead and millions short of food.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell voiced frustration in Brussels that the bloc had not managed to agree on sanctions that he said could have helped avert some of the violations.

The situation in Ethiopia is “one of my biggest frustrations because we were not able to react properly to the large scale human rights violations, mass rapes using sexual violence as a war arm, killings, and concentration camps,” he told a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers.

The EU, with the support of over 50 countries, called for the special rights council session in the hope of launching an international investigation into rights abuses in Ethiopia.

During Friday’s session, the bloc will present a draft resolution calling on the council to create “an international Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia” to investigate a wide range of alleged violations and abuses by all sides in the conflict.

The team of experts should “establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses, to collect and preserve evidence, and, where possible, to identify those responsible,” the draft text said.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry slammed the decision and called on members of the council to “categorically reject and vote against the special session and its politically motivated outcome”.

A council spokesman told AFP that since the special session has the backing of more than a third of the council’s 47 member states, there is no way to stop it from going ahead.

However, members can of course vote against the resolution.

Ethiopia’s war broke out in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the country’s northernmost region of Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), after months of seething tensions with the group that had dominated politics for three decades before he took office.

The fighting has displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates, with reports of massacres and mass rapes by both sides.