UN rights council appoints former ICC prosecutor to lead Ethiopia probe

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A former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court will head a UN investigation into a wide range of alleged violations committed by all sides in Ethiopia’s conflict, the UN said Wednesday.

Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, who served as ICC chief prosecutor from 2012 to 2021, is among three international experts appointed by the president of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the rights situation in Ethiopia, the council said in a statement.

Council president, Ambassador Federico Villegas of Argentina, also appointed Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya and Steven Ratner of the United States to serve on the newly-created International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

The top UN rights body agreed last December, despite strenuous objections from the government in Addis Ababa, to send international investigators to Ethiopia, amidst a grinding 15-month war.

The commission was handed a one-year renewable mandate to impartially investigate allegations of violations and abuses committed by all sides in the conflict that erupted in Ethiopia in November 2020.

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The investigators have also been tasked with establishing “the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses, collect and preserve evidence, to identify those responsible, where possible, and to make such information accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts.”

The decision to create the commission came after a joint investigation by the UN rights office and Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC) determined that possible war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by all sides during the conflict.

Ethiopia’s war broke out in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a move he said came in response to the group’s attacks on army camps.

The war has killed thousands and, according to the UN and the US, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.

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