UNITED NATIONS – Ethiopia failed at the United Nations on Thursday in its bid to block funding for an independent investigation into abuses in the country’s conflict, garnering just 27 yes votes, while 66 countries opposed the move and 39 countries abstained.
The vote was in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly’s budget committee.
The budget committee then voted to approve funding for the inquiry established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in December to collect evidence and identify those responsible for abuses, with a view to future prosecutions.
Ethiopia has vowed not to cooperate. Ethiopian diplomat Lemlem Fiseha Minale told the budget committee ahead of the vote on Thursday: “Ethiopia does not recognize this mechanism and it will have no access to Ethiopia.”
“It has no intention or motive of advancing human rights. It’s clearly and completely political,” she said of the inquiry.
The funding agreed for the inquiry was a compromise, diplomats said, and less than what the United Nations had requested.
“The United States affirms the importance of respecting and ensuring the implementation of decisions by the Human Rights Council as an intergovernmental body of the United Nations,” said U.S. Ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform Chris Lu.
“Such mandates should not be undermined through budgetary decisions,” he told the committee before the vote.
War broke out 16 months ago between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region. Fighting spread last year from Tigray into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions before the rebellious Tigray forces were pushed back.
In November, a joint investigation by the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the U.N. rights office found that all sides in Tigray’s conflict had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said the United Nations should “get the investigation up and running.”
“U.N. member countries sent a strong message to Ethiopia today that its brazen attempt to escape accountability for war crimes and other abuses by defunding the U.N.’s human rights investigation is unacceptable,” Charbonneau said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said earlier on Thursday that the inquiry should be funded, adding that “whether it’s in Ethiopia or anywhere else in the world, human rights violations need to be investigated.”