Dec 17, 2021 - World

UN human rights council to investigate abuses in Ethiopia

Ethiopian security forces patrol at street after Ethiopian army took control of Hayk town of Amhara city from the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia on December 16, 2021.

Ethiopian security forces patrol the street after the Ethiopian army took control of Hayktown of Amhara city from the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia on December 16. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday voted to create an independent commission to investigate human rights violations in Ethiopia.

Why it matters: The move comes amid a deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia, where thousands have been killed and millions of others have fled due to a yearlong conflict between the federal government and rebel forces, particularly in the Tigray region, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The resolution, held at the request of the European Union, passed despite objections from Ethiopia, which called the investigation politically motivated and insisted on its "unreserved commitment" to human rights, according to the UN.

  • Delegates at the special session were told that nine in 10 people in the northern region of Tigray require humanitarian assistance.

State of play: Likely more than 400,000 people in Tigray live in famine-like conditions, according to Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, who added that limited aid has been permitted into the region since June.

  • The commissioner also said that at least two million people across Tigray, Amhara and Afar have been displaced due to conflict and "many of them are not receiving the assistance they need to stay alive," per the UN.
  • There are also increasing concerns over mass arrests and detainment of ethnic Tigrayans, journalists and UN staff, potentially triggered by a nationwide state of emergency announced on Nov. 2.
  • "While some of those arrested over the past six weeks have been released, we estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 remain detained, including nine UN staff members," the deputy UN rights chief said.

What they're saying: "The global paralysis on Ethiopia's armed conflict has emboldened human rights abusers to act with impunity and left communities at risk of feeling abandoned," Human Rights Watch's Laetitia Bader said in a report published jointly this week by HRW and Amnesty International. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Friday said the U.S. "is gravely concerned by unconfirmed new reports alleging mass detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans in western Tigray by Amhara security forces."

  • "We urge the Ethiopian authorities to investigate these reports to determine their veracity and to commit to inclusive, transparent processes to hold responsible those accountable," Price said.
  • "We call on all armed actors in Ethiopia to renounce and end violence against civilians."  

Go deeper: There will be no airlift: U.S. urges Americans to leave Ethiopia now

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