Special UN rights council session expected on Ethiopia this week

AFP , Monday 13 Dec 2021

The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to host a special session on the civil war in Ethiopia this week, following an urgent request from the European Union.

United Nations Human Rights Council
Maarit Kohonen Sheriff, Chief, Africa Branch, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Francoise Mianda, Section Chief, East and Southern Africa, speak to the media about the Tigray, joint investigation into alleged violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law committed by all parties to the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. AP

In a letter sent to the council president, the EU called for the UN's top rights body to swiftly address the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia, where 13 months of conflict has left thousands dead and triggered a dire humanitarian crisis.

"In light of the aggravating situation, we believe the international community has a moral obligation to try to prevent further atrocities and ensure accountability and justice for victims and survivors," Lotte Knudsen, the EU ambassador in Geneva said in a statement.

"The Human Rights Council has to stand up to its responsibilities."

The bloc said more than 50 countries had come out in support of its call and that the session should take place on Friday.

The call comes after UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet's office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission determined in a joint report last month that there was evidence of "serious abuses" by all sides in the conflict, saying some violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Ethiopia's war broke out in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the country's northernmost region of Tigray to topple the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), after months of seething tensions with the group that had dominated politics for three decades before he took office.

He said the move was in response to attacks on army camps by the TPLF, and vowed a swift victory.

But the rebels mounted a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June before advancing into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Fears of a rebel march on Addis Ababa prompted countries such as the United States, France and Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy's government said the city was secure.

The fighting has displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates, with reports of massacres and mass rapes by both sides.

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