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At the Human Rights Council, will Africa save soldier Afwerki?

United Nations Human Rights Council Assembly

United Nations Human Rights Council Assembly

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted on Tuesday several resolutions on crimes against humanity committed by Eritrea in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.

The United Nations HRC voting session on July 13 has had its share of surprises. Among the resolutions passed, some concerned the criminalization of the actions of the Eritrean army in Tigray, Ethiopia. A first resolution accuses the army of Eritrea of ​​serious human rights violations. The second targets Eritrean soldiers, who are believed to be guilty of violence, particularly against women with disabilities.

When voting on these resolutions, African countries overwhelmingly supported Eritrea or, at least, refused to give their voice. Indeed, although it was adopted, resolution 47 / L.20 of the HRC was punctuated by a record of abstention. No African country voted for this first resolution. Even if Gabon, Libya, Mauritania, Senegal and Sudan had voted against the resolution, the latter would have passed due to the decision of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. OHCHR had previously expressed a unanimous opinion, condemning the actions of the Eritrean army in Tigray since March.

Should we save soldier Afwerki?

Since the adoption of the HRC resolution, therefore, all crimes against humanity documented by the UN are personally attributable to those responsible for the Eritrean army before international justice. This exposes the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, to international sanctions. He could be accused himself of the crimes, being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

No African country has yet voted for this resolution. Cameroon, the spearhead of the African bloc within the CDH, sided with Ethiopian diplomacy. Although Ethiopia is not represented on the HRC, its ambassador to the United Nations and former foreign minister exerted a lot of pressure to avoid the adoption of the resolution. Mahlet Hailu Guadey said that "this resolution is a manifestation of contempt for the ongoing investigation."

Indeed, an investigation is currently taking place. It was to be led jointly by Ethiopia and the United Nations. However, the Ethiopian embargo on Tigray made the work of United Nations investigators impossible. Hailu believes that the HRC's resolution "would influence the conclusion" of the investigation. Yet Ethiopia's lack of collaboration is not the only factor that prompted the UN to make this decision. According to the UN humanitarian coordinator, Mark Lowcock, "neither the UN nor any humanitarian agency has evidence of the Eritrean withdrawal announced since March, rather the opposite".

Cameroonian Ambassador, Salomon Eheth, also called on the assembly to await the outcome of the investigation. He considered that the resolution of the CHR "was not constructive". Togo, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire voted against the resolution. It would appear, however, that African diplomatic efforts will not succeed in sparing the grievances of Isaias Afwerki and his generals.

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