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UNHCR to hold session on Ethiopia Conflict at EU request

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The UN Human Rights Council will meet on Friday to consider an EU draft resolution on Ethiopia calling for an investigation into abuses committed by all parties since late 2020.

The special session is being held at the request of the European Union, with the support of 17 Human Rights Council (HRC) member countries, including France and the United Kingdom, and 36 other observer countries, including the United States and Canada.

The request comes as the Ethiopian government leads a "counter-offensive" to regain ground from the rebels it has been fighting in the north of the country since November 2020.

"In light of the worsening situation, we believe that the international community has a moral obligation to try to prevent further atrocities and to ensure (...) justice for the victims and survivors," said the EU's ambassador to the UN, Lotte Knudsen.

"The Human Rights Council must live up to its responsibilities," she added in a written statement.

"The European Union has not reacted adequately and has not been able to prevent the ethnic atrocities committed, because many of its members have not considered that the adoption of sanctions would be an adequate instrument," Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy, lamented Monday evening after a council of foreign ministers in Brussels.

Unanimity is required for the adoption of European sanctions.

- "Perplexed and saddened" -

In a statement, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry accused the countries seeking the session of having "political" considerations.

"Ethiopia is once again perplexed and saddened by the unfortunate situation taking place in the Council," it wrote.

During the session, Council members will consider a draft resolution from the EU, which the UN has released to the media.

The text proposes to establish "for a period of one year, renewable" an international commission of experts to investigate human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict since November 2020.

The UN Human Rights Council holds three regular sessions a year, but if one-third of the 47 member states request it, it can decide at any time to hold a special session.

The war in Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed decided to send the army into the northern region of Tigray to remove local authorities from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) who were challenging his authority and whom he accused of attacking military bases.

Abiy Ahmed declared victory three weeks later after the capture of the regional capital Mekele. But in June, the TPLF recaptured most of Tigray, then advanced into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.

On November 25, Abiy Ahmed announced that he would personally go to the front to lead the "counter-offensive. Since then, the government has announced that it has regained ground.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, the conflict in Tigray is marked by "extreme brutality.

In a joint investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, established by the Ethiopian government, she concluded in early November that there were possible crimes against humanity committed by all parties.

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