Close this search box.

Ethiopia: at the UN, a first step towards long-overdue action on Tigray

By adopting a resolution on the situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil takes a first step towards long-overdue international action to address one of Africa’s worst human rights crises. DefendDefenders welcomes this de­ve­lop­ment, which ensures that public debates will be held on the human rights dimensions of the Tigray crisis. Other African and UN bodies should follow suit and end their silence over Tigray. 

“By deciding to formally discuss the Tigray crisis, the Human Rights Council has taken vital action,said Has­san Shire, Exe­cu­tive Direc­tor, Def­end­­Defen­ders. “All states, including Ethiopia, should engage with the process, and the African Union and UN Security Council should end their silence. On the ground, violations must stop immediately.” 

Since armed conflict erupted in November 2020 between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and their respective allies, reports have emerged of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. 

The resolution adopted today provides for the organisation of two public debates at the Human Rights Council, in September 2021 and March 2022. An “enhanced” interactive dialogue, to be held in September 2021, will allow the Council to hear from Ethiopian and regional actors, such as the Commission of Inquiry on Tigray (CoI)1 set up by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). 

In March 2021, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) agreed to conduct a joint investigation into Tigray.2 Their work is ongoing. 

“Irrespective of the outcomes of the joint investigation, which we hope will be known by September, the High Commissioner will be able to brief the Council,said Estella Ka­bach­wezi, Advocacy, Research and Communications Ma­na­­ger, Def­end­­Defen­ders. “Today’s re­so­­lu­tion does not prejudge outcomes; it paves the way for experts to con­tri­bute to ad­dres­sing the crisis, based on independent human rights assessments.” 

Ahead of the Council’s 47th session (21 June-13 July 2021), DefendDefenders joined a group of civil society organisations in calling on the Council to adopt a resolution on Tigray. In a joint letter,3 we urged states to support the adoption of a resolution on the crisis in Tigray. “After seven months of serious violations and abuses, the HRC can no longer stay silent,” we wrote. Defend­Defenders’ Executive Director, Hassan Shire, also advocated4 for the Council to discuss Tigray, and encou­ra­ged African states to support the organisation of a debate.  

Out of 47 Council members, 20 voted in favour of the resolution, allowing it to pass. 13 abstained, and 14 voted against. 16 amendments were also presented, which were all rejected by vote. Ano­ther two amendments were withdrawn. The Coun­cil will hold its 48th regular session from 13 Sep­tember to 1 October 2021, and its 49th session in March 2022. 


For more information, please contact: 

Hassan Shire

Executive Director, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali) 

Estella Kabachwezi

Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 782 360 460 (English) 

Nicolas Agostini

Representative to the United Nations, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +41 79 813 49 91 (English and French) 



1 ACHPR, “482 Resolution on the Fact-Finding Mission to the Tigray Region of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia – ACHPR/Res. 482 (EXT.OS/XXXII) 2021,” 12 May 2021, (accessed on 8 July 2021). 

2 OHCHR, “Ethiopia: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to conduct a joint investigation with a view to a credible accountability process,” 25 March 2021, (accessed on 8 July 2021). 

3 DefendDefenders et al., “Joint NGO Call for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the ongoing human rights crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia,” 11 June 2021, (accessed on 12 July 2021). 

4 Hassan Shire, “The Human Rights Council should discuss the Tigray crisis,” 28 June 2021, (accessed on 12 July 2021).