Action Taken on UN Staff Members Compliant with Int’l Laws, Practices: Legal Experts


October 13/2021 (ENA) The designation of the UN staff expelled from Ethiopia as persona non grata for meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia is in conformity with international laws and practices, according to legal experts.

It is to be recalled that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutierrez, said at the time that he was ‘shocked’ and criticized the measure against the seven individual workers of UN agencies.  

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the violations committed by these individuals were “diversion of humanitarian assistance to the TPLF, violation of  agreed-upon security arrangements, the transferring of communication equipment to be used by the TPLF, continued reticence in demanding the return of more than 400 trucks commandeered by the TPLF for military mobilization and for the transportation of its forces since July 2021, and dissemination of misinformation and politicization of humanitarian assistance.”

Speaking to ENA, Tewodros Getachew, a legal expert, said Ethiopia has the right to expel any diplomat or staff of multilateral organizations that works against its national interest and interferes in the affairs of the country.

He added that international laws and practices prohibit any action of diplomats that goes against the national interest and sovereignty of the receiving state.

According to him, the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations explicitly states the obligation of diplomats to respect the laws and regulations of the hosting state and non-interference in the domestic affairs of the same state.

The Charter of the United Nations ratified by the member states also prohibits interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and respects their sovereignty.

The expert underscored that that “in Ethiopia’s context, TPLF was designated as a terrorist organization by the House of People’s Representatives. So, any Ethiopian or foreigner has to respect the law of the country as long as he or she lives in its territorial jurisdiction. Hence any kind of contact with this terrorist group is criminal.”

He elaborated that since breaching the law of the hosting state follows legal consequence, the action of the Ethiopian government on the individual workers of the UN agencies for interfering in the domestic affairs of the country is a right decision that complies with international laws and practices.

“The international law that guides diplomats of different states also works for workers of UN agencies. It is just a matter of interpretation. Different countries have practiced it by rightly interpreting the international law. Ethiopia’s measure on workers of the UN agencies is also legally acceptable. But the response of UN Secretary General has no legal ground,” he concluded.

Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations Director, Mesud Gebeyehu said on his part diplomats and individuals working in international organizations, including workers of UN agencies, have the responsibility to respect the law and regulation of the country as well as acceptable international laws and principles.

He added that engagements of diplomats and workers of international organizations in illegal activities and acts out of their given functions are prohibited. In such cases, the hosting state can declare them as persona non grata to deprive them their diplomatic immunity.

As a result, the measure of the Ethiopian government is appropriate and respects international laws and practices, the director noted.

“Since the issue of the country is a matter of sovereignty, moving out of legal principles leads to accountability and taking such action by declaring them persona non grata is part of making them held accountable. Hence, it is one of the international rights of the government on diplomats meddling in the domestic affairs of the country,” Mesud said.

He pointed out that the sovereignty of Ethiopia shouldn’t be infringed by foreign powers taking humanitarian assistance as cover.