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US lawmakers call for extension of UN experts’ mandate on Ethiopia ahead of decisive vote

The future of ICHREE hangs in the balance as its fate is to be determined during the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Photo: Amnesty International)

Addis Abeba – Six members of the United States Congress have called on the State Department and the United States mission to the United Nations to extend the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE).

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the lawmakers stressed the importance of ICHREE’s ongoing work in investigating human rights abuses in Ethiopia, specifically in the regions of Tigray and Oromia.

The lawmakers underlined the urgent need to renew ICHREE’s mandate due to the ongoing conflict and atrocities in Tigray, mounting evidence of potential war crimes in Amhara, and the continuation of conflict-related abuses in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia. They also pointed to concerns raised by various organizations, including the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, regarding the increasing number of forced disappearances, incommunicado detentions, and mass detentions of ethnic Amhara.

The fate of ICHREE, currently the only remaining independent and credible investigative mechanism on Ethiopia, will be determined at the ongoing 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) quietly terminated the responsibilities of the Commission of Inquiry regarding the situation in the Tigray region last month. Highlighting this termination, the U.S. lawmakers stressed the significance of maintaining the only independent investigation mechanism with the authority to probe abuses throughout Ethiopia.

On 18 September, 2023, Amnesty International also called for the renewal of ICHREE’s mandate, underscoring the importance of international scrutiny for the country. The release of ICHREE’s latest report on the same day concluded that the Ethiopian government has failed to effectively investigate violations and has initiated a flawed transitional justice consultation process related to the armed conflict in northern Ethiopia that began in November 2020.

“The ICHREE’s latest report sends a clear warning that this is not the time for the UN to lower the accountability bar on Ethiopia,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa.

In their letter, the U.S. lawmakers also emphasized the crucial need for the international community to safeguard this mechanism and advocate for justice and accountability, not only in Tigray but also in other violence-stricken parts of the country. They recognized that all warring parties in Ethiopia have been implicated in severe human rights abuses and atrocities and expressed doubts about the feasibility of a credible domestic accountability process while those responsible for grave abuses remain in power.

Additionally, the lawmakers highlighted that restoring stability in Ethiopia aligns with U.S. interests and that holding perpetrators of gross human rights violations accountable aligns with U.S. values. Therefore, they urged Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to leverage their diplomatic influence to seek support from European and African allies and ensure the renewal of ICHREE’s mandate.

Members of Congress cautioned that without active U.S. support and high-level diplomatic engagement with partners, ICHREE may not be renewed this year. They emphasized the need for the Biden administration to prioritize justice and accountability in its policy towards Ethiopia, meeting the demands of all Ethiopian survivors seeking justice.

ICHREE’s first report to the UN Human Rights Council presented in September, 2022 concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations, such as extrajudicial killings, rape, sexual violence, and starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare have been committed in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020,” and that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that, in several instances, these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 

Source: Addis Standard

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