Channel 1 Los Angeles
Disturbing reports of an alleged massacre have surfaced in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, amid fighting between national and regional forces that may become impossible to control, the UN human rights chief warned on Friday.
spokesperson, Rupert Colville, told journalists at a press briefing in Geneva.
Equally worrying were “ethnically and religiously motivated hate speech, incitement to violence”, arbitrary arrests, killings, mass displacement and destruction in various parts of the country, said senior UN prevention of genocide special adviser Pramila Patten, and the UN’s Responsibility to Protect senior adviser Karen Smith.
Such ethnically motivated attacks and reportedly ethnic profiling of citizens heightened the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the UN senior officials added.
Although the UN rights chief noted that the details of the alleged atrocity reported by Amnesty International in southwest Tigray “have not yet been fully verified”, she urged a full inquiry.
“If confirmed as having been deliberately carried out by a party to the current fighting, these killings of civilians would of course amount to war crimes”, she said.
The High Commissioner repeated her call to “stop the fighting and prevent any further atrocities from taking place”, before highlighting the devastating military power being brought to bear in the conflict.
“Despite the severing of communications with Tigray making it difficult to verify the extent of the damage so far, we’ve received reports from a variety of sources suggesting increased airstrikes by Government forces as well as fierce ground fighting between the opposing forces”, she said.
Cuts to water, electricity
Cuts to essential services for vulnerable populations as well as a communications blackout and access problems “by road and by air” for relief agencies were also deeply worrying, Ms. Bachelet added.
Regional and political tensions have risen since 2018, when newly-elected Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed merged several ethnically based regional parties into a single national force, amid an ambitious reform programme.
Violence erupted at the start of the month in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, which prompted the Prime Minister to order a military offensive.
Prior to the Tigray escalation, dozens of people in western Oromia region were killed and injured in attacks.
In a new alert over the safety of civilians in Tigray, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reiterated concerns for the safety of more than 96,000 Eritreans living in four refugee camps, and host communities living alongside them.
They are in addition to the 100,000 people in Tigray who were already internally displaced at the start of the conflict.
“Fighting in Tigray yesterday moved closer to Shimelba refugee camp – which hosts 6,500 Eritrean refugees – raising concerns of mass displacement from the camp itself”, said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson. “UNHCR is making preparations to receive refugees who have already begun arriving at another refugee camp, Hitsats, 50 kilometres away, and is considering further relocation options in the region.”