Tigray Fighting is Spiraling Out of Control, UN Rights Chief Warns

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warns that fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is spiraling out of control and is having an appalling impact on civilians who are without aid and protection.  
Despite Ethiopian government claims to the contrary, High Commissioner Bachelet says fighting continues between Ethiopian armed forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, as well as affiliated militia on both sides.   She says human rights monitors and aid agencies are unable to access this volatile area.  That means they are unable to fully verify disturbing allegations of violations against civilians caught in this chaotic situation.  However, she believes the information her office has received to be credible.     “We have corroborated information of gross human rights violation abuses including indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects — looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls.  We have also reported forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities,”  she said.  The High Commissioner says there is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the situation in Tigray.  She is calling on the government to grant access to the region to ensure protection for the civilian population and to bring those responsible for abuse to account.    Ethiopians fleeing from the Tigray region walk towards a river to cross from Ethiopia to Sudan, near the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp, which houses refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the border in Sudan, Dec. 1, 2020. Bachelet notes the humanitarian situation in the region also is distressing.  She is appealing to the government to implement an agreement with the U.N. to grant aid agencies unimpeded access to civilians in desperate need of assistance.   Elsewhere in Ethiopia, rights chief Bachelet says there are numerous reports of ethnic profiling of Tigrayans.  She says Tigrayans reportedly have been dismissed from jobs in the civil service, journalists are harassed and hate speech directed against people of Tigrayan origin is growing.    “I think that such discriminatory actions are deeply unjust.  They also are fostering divisiveness and sowing the seeds for further instability and conflict.  So, I urge the government to take immediate measures to halt such discrimination,”  she said.   Bachelet expresses concern about a reported rise in inter-communal violence in recent weeks in other parts of Ethiopia.  She says fighting, which has flared up in Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, Afar and Oromia regions, reportedly has resulted in fatalities.  

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