UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet on Monday deplored “multiple and severe reports of alleged gross violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law” committed by all parties to the conflict in Tigray. In an update to the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) on the situation in the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia, Ms. Bachelet said the conflict has “continued unabated,” and “risks spilling over to the whole Horn of Africa”. In the last few months, “mass detentions, killings, systematic looting, and sexual violence” have created “an atmosphere of fear and an erosion of living conditions that resulted in the forced displacement of the Tigrayan civilian population. Civilian suffering is widespread, and impunity is pervasive, she said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also informed the Council on progress made in the joint investigation by the OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) following the conclusion of the fieldwork phase of the report. The full range of information collected is currently being analysed, but Ms. Bachelet said it was already clear that cases documented comprise multiple allegations of human rights violations. These included attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. Sexual and gender-based violence has also included gang rapes, sexualised torture and ethnically targeted sexual violence.
According to Ms. Bachelet, Government forces and their allies continue to be implicated in allegations of human rights violations. Reports also suggest that people of Tigrayan ethnicity have been detained by law enforcement officials on ethnic grounds, mostly in Addis Ababa. She noted that incitement to hatred and discrimination were also documented targeting people of Tigrayan ethnicity, as well as attacks on journalists and the suspension of media outlets’ licenses and shutdowns of Internet and telecommunications in Tigray.
Ms. Bachelet added that Tigrayan forces have also allegedly been responsible for attacks on civilians, including indiscriminate killings resulting in nearly 76,500 people displaced in Afar and an estimated 200,000 in Amhara. More than 200 individuals have reportedly been killed in the most recent clashes in these regions, and 88 individuals, including children, have been injured, she said. There have also been reports of the recruitment of children into the conflict by Tigrayan forces, which is prohibited under international law.
Ms Bachelet urged the Government of Ethiopia to accept the recommendations of the joint investigation report that will be issued on 1 November 2021 and to give human rights and humanitarian actors unhindered access. She called for all parties to immediately end hostilities and negotiate a lasting ceasefire to “avoid the risk that Ethiopia will be torn apart”.