Ethiopia Decries U.N. Creation of Team to Monitor Rights Abuses in War-Torn Country

Ethiopia decried the United Nations' creation of a team to monitor alleged rights abuses in the war-torn country.

On Friday, the U.N.'s main human rights body voted to form an international team of experts to increase inspection of reported rights abuses in Ethiopia. The Human Rights Council voted 21-15 in favor of making a three-person team to monitor and report on rights abuses in the country over the span of one year.

After the European Union and other Western countries requested a special session of the Human Rights Council to pay closer attention to the war in Ethiopia, the country decried a "neocolonist mentality."

"Multilateralism, after all these years, is once again being hijacked by a neocolonialist mentality. Ethiopia is being targeted and singled out at the Human Rights Council for defending a democratically elected government," said Zenebe Kebede Korcho, Ethiopia's ambassador in Geneva. "The council is being used as an instrument of political pressure."

The ambassador said his government refuses the resolution from the Human Rights Council, calling it "a deliberate destabilization effort" and saying the government "will not cooperate with any mechanism imposed on it" during Friday's session.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, created by the government, conducted a joint investigation with the U.N. human rights office into rights abuses, publishing a report last month. However, the push to further probe into the matter from the EU and other Western countries reflects their frustrations that the report did not delve deep enough.

The commission, in a statement this week, said there was "value-added" in supporting the joint investigation's continuance but that the creation of a new team "is repetitive, counterproductive to ongoing implementation processes, and further delays redress for victims and survivors."

Ethiopia, United Nations, Rights Abuses Monitoring Team
The U.N.'s main human rights body held a special session on Friday to discuss rights violations in conflict-torn Ethiopia, with many Western countries supporting an international team of experts to boost scrutiny of the situation despite a lack of support from African nations and amid accusations from Ethiopia’s government that the move is politically motivated. Above, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, front, reads documents prior to the Human Rights Council special session on "the grave human rights situation in Ethiopia" at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on December 17. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

"The conflict has continued with ongoing fighting beyond the borders of Tigray. Our office continues to receive credible reports of severe human rights violations and abuses by all parties," the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, Nada al-Nashif, told representatives at Friday's session. "The humanitarian impact of the conflict is increasingly dramatic."

Nearly 10 million people in northern Ethiopia face acute food insecurity, and some 2 million have been forced to flee their homes. Humanitarian workers have little access and face hostility. Ethiopia's government has moved to restrict reporting on the war and detained some journalists, including Amir Aman Kiyaro, a video freelancer accredited to The Associated Press.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 people swept up under Ethiopia's new state of emergency remain detained, most of them Tigrayans. "Many are detained incommunicado or in unknown locations. This is tantamount to enforced disappearance, and a matter of very grave alarm," al-Nashif said.

The Ethiopian ambassador said Ethiopia's government set up an "inter-ministerial task force" in response to last month's human rights report and that it has begun work.

The joint report decried the "terrible toll on civilians" in the conflict in the Tigray region and human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides. The rare collaboration by the U.N. human rights office with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission was hampered by authorities' intimidation and restrictions, and didn't visit some of the war's worst-affected locations.

The U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said all sides in the war in the Tigray region have committed brutal abuses that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The investigation broke little new ground and confirmed in general the abuses described by witnesses throughout the war. But it gave little sense of scale, saying for example that the more than 1,300 rapes reported to authorities were likely far fewer than the real number.

The government has insisted the report cleared it of allegations that genocide was happening in Tigray.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ethiopia, United Nations, Rights Abuses Monitoring Team
Ambassador and permanent representative of Ethiopia to the U.N. Zenebe Kebede said his government refuses the resolution that the Human Rights Council is considering, saying the resolution was “a deliberate destabilization effort” and that the government “will not cooperate with any mechanism imposed on it.” Above, Kebede (on screen) delivers a speech remotely during an extraordinary meeting on Ethiopia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on December 17. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images