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UN warns of risk of genocide in Ethiopia

UNOCHA/Liz Loh-Taylor | A girl walks in a street which was severely impacted by violence and fighting in the Afar region, Ethiopia. (file)

10 October 2023 | Human Rights

Following reports of continued fighting between government troops and local militias in Ethiopia, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is sounding the alarm about the heightened risk of genocide and related atrocity crimes in the Tigray, Amhara, Afar and Oromi regions.

“The incident reports that we see coming out of Ethiopia are deeply disturbing and constitute a call for action,” said Alice Wairimu Nderitu. “I want to particularly draw the attention of the global community to the continued presence of risk factors for genocide and related atrocity crimes in the country,” she warned on Tuesday.

There are reports that entire families have been killed, relatives forced to watch horrific crimes against their loved ones, while whole communities have been displaced or expelled from their homes.

“The suffering of innocent civilians should never be accepted as inevitable; rather, it must reinforce our commitment to ensure that impunity does not prevail and that all possible prevention actions are prioritized,” the Special Adviser said.

Wide-ranging violations

Ms. Nderitu alluded to her previous reports on the situation in the country over the last three years, as well as the 14 September report by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, which documented violations against civilians in the Amhara region and on-going violations in Tigray.

She is calling for an immediate end to wide-ranging violations perpetrated by parties to the conflict since 3 November 2020, including mass killings, rape, starvation, destruction of schools and medical facilities, forced displacement and arbitrary detention.

She noted that the Commission’s report also decried the situation in Oromia, Amhara, and other parts of the country - including what it described as ongoing patterns of violations, entrenched impunity, and increasing securitization of the state – which bear hallmarked risks of further crimes.

Ongoing hostilities

Confirming concerns raised by the Special Adviser in previous statements, the report specifies that violations against Tigrayan civilians were frequently accompanied by insulting or derogatory language, often through pejorative terms including “junta,” “woyane” and “agame”, during attacks.

“Perpetrators have expressed the intention to target a group on the basis of ethnicity,” noted the Special Adviser. “This includes describing Tigrayans as ‘cancer,’ indicating a desire to kill men and children, or else to destroy women’s reproductive capacities. This must raise all alarms that the risk of genocide is present and growing,” emphasized the Special Adviser.

She also noted with grave concern the Commission report’s conclusion that widespread rape, multi-perpetrator-rape, and other forms of sexual violence against ethnic Amhara and Agew women and girls, in at least 11 towns and villages in had been committed.

The Special Adviser condemned these actions in the strongest possible terms. “It is imperative that violence stops and that innocent civilians are not directly targeted. Ongoing hostilities constitute a war against civilians as much as a war between the warring parties.”

Crimes against humanity

An agreement to cease hostilities in the country more than a year ago has largely failed, as violent confrontations continue, with mounting allegations of atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity still being committed in the country.

On 24 September, the historic city of Gondar in Amhara reportedly saw heavy urban combat when local militias known as the Fano entered the city, prompting intense clashes with the Federal Forces.

“Reports that Eritrean troops and Amhara militia members continue to commit grave violations in Tigray, including the systematic rape and sexual violence of women and girls, are disturbing,” Ms.Nderitu stated, adding that “there have been numerous credible reports of violations against Amhara civilians since the announcement of a state of emergency in August 2023. These violations must stop immediately.”

Copyright © United Nations


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