3At the request of the European Union, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) organized a special session to discuss the crisis in Ethiopia. According to UN News, delegates met virtually on Friday, December 17, with the required support of one-third of the forum’s 47 member and observer states (including the United States). During the session, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif addressed the Council, highlighting the human rights violations that have taken place in the region over the past 13 last months. According to him, 9 out of 10 people in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than two million people have been displaced and more than 400,000 people in Tigray live in conditions bordering on famine. Further, Al-Nashif suggests that “many of them are not getting the help they need to stay alive” as relief has been limited since June.
Al-Nashif also presented the findings of the joint investigation into Tigray which was released by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She pointed out that many incidents under investigation could constitute international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The official summary of the UN Geneva notes that the report found that all sides committed human rights violations and violated international refugee and humanitarian laws.
The Chairman of the Special Procedures Coordination Committee, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, detailed the allegations as “the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial and summary executions, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, widespread destruction and looting of civilian property, torture and other forms of ill-treatment and sexual and gender-based violence.
Ethiopian government response
According to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human RightsEthiopian government officials denied the allegations, saying they were “baseless”. The official summary of UN Geneva noted that the representatives challenged the charges on the grounds that they were defending their “sovereignty and territorial integrity against internal aggression”.
Moreover, they rejected the resolution that was proposed later, arguing that it was “politically motivated” and lacking in merit. The representatives expressed their commitment to peace and human rights in Ethiopia, but also declared their refusal to comply with any “mechanism” that may be imposed. Despite this, delegates were encouraged to learn that the government intends to incorporate the recommendations released by the joint investigation team; this includes the creation of an inter-ministerial working group which is already operational.
The session ended with a vote on a draft resolution to establish an international human rights commission in Ethiopia. According to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the task of the commission would be “to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of violations and abuses committed in Ethiopia since November 3, 2020 by all parties to the conflict”. The proposed resolution would work for at least a year, but is subject to renewal if necessary. The commission would be made up of three human rights experts, appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council; their investigation would complement and deepen the investigation of the Joint Investigation Team. With 21 countries in favor, 15 against and 11 abstentions, the resolution was adopted, according to UN News.
The UNHRC Special Session was a crucial opportunity for the Ethiopian people. The civil dissonance that is taking place in this region threatens to provoke an even more violent political eruption throughout the Horn of Africa; which could take decades to recover. Restoration and reconciliation are therefore urgent, as tensions have been escalating by the minute and have been for more than a year. The adopted resolution is a small victory for the people of this region, because it exerted political pressure and attracted international attention. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that the Council “called for an immediate end to all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian and refugee law and for strict respect for all human rights and fundamental liberties “. Even though it was long overdue, the voice of the United Nations certainly adds momentum to the cause.
Despite this, the impact of the adopted resolution will probably have minimal effect on living conditions in this region. Abused civilians in Ethiopia will hardly feel the ripple effect of this investigation, just as they did not feel the impact of the last. Reform will not go through a three-man committee, but rather through a strong international demand for change and internal coordination.
Thus, the UNHRC has failed to make significant progress that will translate into real change in human rights. In accordance with these statements, UN News says Ambassador Zenebe Kebede says the session did not condemn “the looting, destruction of property, rape and sexual abuse, the use of child soldiers by these rebel forces, the TPLF”.
Either way, resolving this conflict is not the sole responsibility of the United Nations. To successfully navigate the future of this conflict, the United Nations must raise the voice of the Ethiopian people and partner with other international organizations that represent the Ethiopian diaspora. The United Nations should maximize opportunities, such as last week’s special session, to strategize on these partnerships. This is the key to meaningful and lasting change.
In its fragmentation, Ethiopia needs strong leadership. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must move forward powerfully and create a plan for reconciliation. Consulting with international partners and trusted organizations is an important part of this. Parliament must draft a new constitution for a reunified Ethiopia that respects and validates the 80 ethnic groups that make up the nation, while wary of the decentralization that led to its previous decline. Government boundaries must also be clarified; their purpose is to facilitate and protect the rights of individuals. The legacy of oppressive leadership must end.
There must also be a radical equalization between the subcultures and communities of Ethiopia. The constitution must protect the rights of minorities by preventing one group from dominating others and by prohibiting the suppression of certain ethno-political parties.
Before a new constitution can be successfully implemented, there must be a reconciliation of the past. The TPLF must be abolished, along with the political philosophies it supported. The scars of their tyrannical rule must be erased by the restoration of the liberty and liberty guaranteed by a new constitution. The Tigrayan people may remain a part of reunited Ethiopia, but their supposed hegemony must be completely ended. Beyond the institutional unit, the people Ethiopia must be unified. Without the necessary support of the population, reunification will be impossible. The Bosnian regime is setting a precedent for successful reunification amid cultural heterogeneity.
In addition, there must be a more powerful intercession from the international community. Seeing as this has escalated into civil war, a third-party mediator may be needed to facilitate the resolution (by Ethiopian democratic invitation.) The United Nations has provided humanitarian support and advocated for peaceful solutions over the past year, but there is a lot more progress to be made. The United Nations must work with the African Union and Ethiopian organizations through this intercession to ensure that their involvement promotes the interests of the Ethiopian people.
Now is the time for progressive thought and action. Lotte Knudsen, head of the European Union delegation to the United Nations, said in a statement that “in light of the worsening situation, the international community has a moral obligation to try to prevent new atrocities and ensuring accountability and justice for victims and survivors. . “Ethiopia’s ethnic apartheid has become one of the most pressing humanitarian crises of our time.