By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A United Nations General Assembly budget committee is due to vote Thursday on an Ethiopian push to block funding for an independent investigation into abuses in the country's conflict, diplomats said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva established the inquiry in December to collect evidence and identify those responsible for abuses with a view to future prosecutions. Ethiopia vowed not to cooperate, describing the move - pushed by the Western states - as "politically motivated."
The 193-member U.N. General Assembly in New York has to approve funding for the investigation by a three-member panel of experts. The scheduled vote on Thursday is on an Ethiopian-drafted resolution to deny funding.
Human Rights Watch urged U.N. member states to reject the Ethiopian move.
"Governments concerned about the many victims of atrocities and other crimes in Ethiopia should get the commission up and running, fully funded, as soon as possible," said Louis Charbonneau, Human Rights Watch U.N. director, and Lucy McKernan, Human Rights Watch deputy U.N. director in Geneva.
War broke out 16 months ago between Ethiopia's federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region. Fighting spread last year from Tigray into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions before the rebellious Tigray forces were pushed back.
In November a joint investigation by the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the U.N rights office found that all sides in Tigray's conflict had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.
Ethiopia's U.N. ambassador, Taye Atske Selassie Amde, told Reuters on Wednesday that the move by the Human Rights Council to establish the new inquiry "completely undermined" the joint investigation efforts.
"The Human Rights Council is misused to advance a biased political agenda of others who believe that African national Human Rights organizations are not capable to investigate human rights violations and make accountability violators," he said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler)