The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Friday by a narrow majority to extend for another year a commission of experts tasked with investigating the human rights situation in conflict-torn Ethiopia.
The text presented by the European Union was adopted by 21 votes in favor.
Nineteen countries voted against, including all African members of the Human Rights Council except Malawi, which abstained along with six other countries.
The experts are due to make a verbal report on the situation in Ethiopia, which has been mired in conflict since November 2020, to the Human Rights Council at its next session in early 2023.
Ethiopia’s representative in Geneva said in a tweet before the vote that “Ethiopia rejects it and requests members of the Council to vote against this political venture.”
Human Rights Watch said the extension was “a powerful message to the warring parties… that those who commit abuses could one day be brought to justice.”
It also called on states to give the commission the means to do its work.
“This decision gives hope to the victims of Ethiopia’s continued human rights violations that someone is supporting them,” Amnesty International said.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Washington welcomes the extension of the commission’s mandate and added: “The Ethiopian government and all involved in this conflict must commit to a comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent transitional justice process. As we have said from the beginning, any solution to the crisis must include accountability for those responsible, and the ICHREE will have an essential role in supporting such efforts.”
The war has killed untold numbers of civilians and triggered a deep humanitarian crisis, and all sides to the conflict have been accused of grave abuses against civilians.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for decades before Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018.
After months of rising tensions Prime Minister Abiy, a Nobel Peace laureate, sent soldiers into Tigray to unseat the TPLF, saying the move was in response to attacks on federal army camps.