The killing of three employees of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) by unknown attackers has been condemned by the United Nations officials.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a statement on Saturday, said he was deeply shocked by the murders he described as “totally unacceptable and an appalling violation of International Humanitarian Law”.
“The perpetrators must be found and severely punished. I stand in solidarity with our humanitarian partners who are risking their lives to provide protection and relief to people in Tigray,” Mr. Guterres added.
The trio was travelling Thursday afternoon in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray when MSF lost contact with the vehicle that had been carrying them from the Spanish branch of the agency.
The bodies of Spanish national, Maria Hernandez, and Ethiopian staff members Yohannes Halefom Reda, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael were found on Friday morning a few metres away from their empty vehicle.
“No words can truly convey our sadness, shock, and outrage against this horrific attack”, said MSF in a statement.
MSF is an independent, international medical humanitarian organisation, made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff, operating worldwide.
Conflict began in Tigray last November, between central Government forces and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), throwing the region into a humanitarian crisis with fighting sparking massive displacement and warnings from the UN, of a looming famine.
The UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement, she was outraged at the brutal murders. “Humanitarian and human rights workers are civilians and as such can never be targeted. Parties to the conflict must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law.”
“The shocking killings come as we continue to receive reports of ongoing serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses in Tigray,” she added.
In a message on Twitter, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino said he was shocked by the killing of the MSF workers, “who were serving some of the most vulnerable people…IOM condemns in the strongest terms, the targeting of aid workers in conflicts.”
Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, said he was “shocked by the terrible news”, adding that the workers had been “simply trying to help others in great need…our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends during this difficult time.”
The Tigray conflict has continued unabated in recent days, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.
On Tuesday, amid conflicting accounts, an Ethiopian Government air strike hit a market in the village of Togoga, reportedly killing many civilians, including women and children.
On Friday, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement strongly condemning the attack, expressing his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
The Secretary-General reiterates the need for all parties to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law and to ensure the protection of civilians. He calls for an independent and swift investigation into this incident.
He called once again, for an immediate end to the fighting and for urgent steps to peacefully resolve the conflict. (Source: UN News)