UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The powerful United Nations Budget Committee on Thursday rejected an attempt by Ethiopia to refuse funding for an investigation into human rights abuses in the war between Ethiopian government forces and militants from the country’s northern Tigray region.
A brief resolution proposed by Ethiopia in the General Assembly Budget Committee against approving resources for a Geneva-based Human Rights Council team to investigate human rights abuses during the 16-month war was defeated by 27 votes to 66, with 39 abstentions.
The committee approved a resolution recommending 14 locations for the Ethiopia probe.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said: “UN member countries today sent Ethiopia a strong message that its brazen attempt to evade accountability for war crimes and other human rights abuses by refuting the UN human rights inquiry is unacceptable.”
“The UN should get the investigation underway quickly,” he said. “The distress of the victims and their families is as great as ever.”
In response to objections from Ethiopia, the Human Rights Council voted in December to set up an international team of experts to monitor and report on violations in the country.
Months of political tensions between the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray leaders who once dominated the Ethiopian government erupted into war in November 2020.
The war is believed to have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.
Although the war has subsided in several places, particularly in the Tigray and Amhara regions, concerns remain in the northeastern Afar region.
Aid to the Tigray region has been severely curtailed under what the United Nations has described as a “de facto humanitarian blockade”.
On March 24, the Ethiopian government in Tigray announced an “indefinite humanitarian ceasefire,” saying the measure was necessary to allow unhindered relief supplies into the area.
The government statement said that in order for the humanitarian situation in the region to improve, the Tigray forces must return the ceasefire. It called on fighters loyal to Tigray’s fugitive leaders to “refrain from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions.”
It was not clear if the immediate humanitarian ceasefire was a step towards a comprehensive ceasefire.
The Ethiopian government is facing growing international pressure to ease restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid to Tigray.