Conflict in Ethiopia: UN laments “extreme brutality”

Status: 03.11.2021 11:07 a.m.

The fighting over the Ethiopian region of Tigray has been going on for a year – and is spreading. A UN report has now found serious human rights violations. UN High Commissioner Bachelet calls for consequences.

According to an investigation by the United Nations, serious human rights violations have been committed in the conflict over the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. Most of these were perpetrated by the armed forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which interfered in the conflict, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Recently, however, there have been increasing reports of human rights violations, including on the part of the Tigray independence movement.

“Some could be war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Bachelet. There were disturbing indications of ethnically based violence, but not enough evidence to speak of genocide. “The Tigray conflict is characterized by extreme brutality,” said Bachelet. “The seriousness of the violations and mistreatment documented by us underline the need to hold the perpetrators accountable on all sides.” The civilian population keeps getting caught between the fronts of the conflicting parties, the report says.

The investigation was carried out jointly with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. This gave the team access to large parts of the Tigray region, which has been largely sealed off by the government, but not all parts. The experts spoke to 269 victims and witnesses and documented killings, torture, sexual violence, violence against refugees and the displacement of civilians.

Fighting has been going on for a year

About a year ago fighting broke out in Tigray between troops from the TPLF-led regional government and the central government under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The regional government was initially driven out, but the TPLF was largely able to regain control. Since the beginning of August, the conflict has spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

It was only on Tuesday that the government in Addis Ababa declared a nationwide state of emergency in view of the advance of the TPLF in order to prevent the conflict from spreading to the entire country. It is to apply for six months and enables, among other things, the erection of roadblocks, the interruption of traffic and communication links and the administration of certain areas by the military.

The TPLF had previously reported the capture of two strategically important cities and threatened to advance on the capital Addis Ababa. The capital authorities then called for the city to be defended. People should register firearms with the police. Prime Minister Abiy also called on the population to use violence against the rebels.

Catastrophic humanitarian situation

Almost two million people have been displaced since the conflict over Tigray began. There have been repeated reports of atrocities, including massacres and mass rape.

The supply situation in Tigray is devastating: aid workers hardly ever get into the region, although around 5.2 million people would need humanitarian aid to survive. According to the UN, 400,000 people are affected by famine. In the Afar and Amhara regions, 1.7 million people do not have enough to eat.

USA threatens to terminate trade agreements

The US warned that the situation would deteriorate further. A possible advance of the TPLF on Addis Ababa is unacceptable, said the US special envoy for the region, Jeffrey Feltman. Because of the poor security situation, the US is also warning against traveling to Ethiopia. They classified the country in the highest hazard category 4 on Tuesday evening. The travel advice stated that further escalation in the country is likely.

The US government had previously threatened to terminate an important trade agreement. US President Joe Biden informed Congress in a letter published by the White House about his plans, which he justified with ongoing human rights abuses in Ethiopia.

If there is no improvement by the beginning of the new year, the country could be excluded from the Agoa program. It stands for African Growth and Opportunity Act and guarantees many African countries duty-free access for thousands of goods in the US market. For Ethiopia, the agreement is of great economic importance.

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