BY TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
Authorities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said Thursday that they are fully aware of the latest moves by the Ethiopian government intended to stop the mandate of The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) which is probing gross human right violations committed during the two-year conflict in Tigray.
In an Exclusive interview with The East African Daily, a senior Tigray government/TPLF official said that there is a renewed move by Addis Ababa for the ICHREE to terminate its mandate.
The official who sought anonymity however downplayed Ethiopia’s latest attempts saying that the country doesn’t have the authority to terminate a probe commission mandated by a UN body.
“It is is not up to Addis Ababa to terminate the mandate of the UN-backed right Experts Commission” He said.
When asked what Tigray authorities were doing to reverse Ethiopia’s intent, the official said “We are in touch with many actors at the international level”
“As they say we will cross the bridge when we reach there” He added.
The federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed peace agreement in Pretoria last November and since Addis Ababa has renewed its protest against ICHREE seeking an end to its mandate.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed government asked President Joe Biden’s US administration to support its “bid in terminating the mandate” of the Commission.
A month earlier, on December 9, 2022, during a meeting with Ambassadors of the EU and Member States based in Addis Ababa, Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, called on the European Union to ‘take measures to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Experts at the earliest session of the UN Human Rights Commission.’
Ethiopia is still insisting that investigations in to the atrocities committed by all parties to the Tigray conflict are dealt by domestic means rather than by an external independent investigation team.
As the African Union (AU) is meeting this week for the first time since Ethiopia signed a peace deal, creadible sources told The East African Daily that Tigrayan authorities are worried that Ethiopia will want all mechanisms including that UN special human right team’s mandate is stopped from working its investigations in Tigray so that probing is handled internally.
Despite the November peace deal, TPLF and the Tigray government authorities on their side however have confirmed to The East African Daily over their firm position with regard to ICHREE’s mandate.
“Our strong position is that the mandate should continue and it can even be an input to the transitional justice” the official stated.
“An independent investigation helps to ensure accountability of all sides” he said adding “There are crimes to be seen at the international level”
The UN Human Rights Council formed the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) in December 2021 and its mandate was extended by an additional one year last October.
However, the Ethiopian government has been protesting against the formation of the commission since its inception.
The Ethiopian government has further accused the commission of politicizing human rights issues.
In December, Ethiopia’s draft resolution requesting the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly not to approve any resources for the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) was rejected by a vote of 71 against 32 in favor, whereas 50 members states abstained from the vote.
It was the second failed attempt by Ethiopia to have the UN’s General Assembly to defund resources for the UN rights experts who were appointed by the UN to investigate war-related human rights abuses in Ethiopia. After its opposition to the formation of ICHREE, in April last year, the Ethiopian government voted to block the U.N. funding for it, unsuccessfully.
In October 7, 2022, the United States government welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) at the 51st Human Rights Council session.
“We view the ICHREE as an important complementary mechanism to Ethiopia’s domestic accountability efforts” said Ned Price, US State Department Spokesperson.
“We continue to urge the Government of Ethiopia to grant the ICHREE unhindered access so it can be independent, effective, and transparent in discharging its mandate”
He said the US government was deeply troubled by ICHREE’s September 19 report, which found reasonable grounds to believe that parties to the conflict committed serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes, across northern Ethiopia between November 2020 and January 2022.
“As we have said from the beginning, any solution to the crisis must include accountability for those responsible, and the ICHREE will have an essential role in supporting such efforts” added Ned Price.
Recently, the United Nations-backed probing panel urged Abiy government to fully cooperate after its investigators were denied to secure access to the scenes of some alleged crimes in Tigray.
Erupted in 2020, the Tigray conflict has claimed the lives of over 600,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.
(The East African Daily)