UN rights chief raises concern over alleged civilian killings in Tigray region


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Tuesday that the continuing lack of overall humanitarian access, coupled with an on-going communications blackout in many areas in Tigray, raises increasing concerns about the situation of civilians.

“Fighting is said to be continuing, particularly in some areas of north, central and southern Tigray,” Ms. Bachelet said in a statement.

“We have received allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting,” the High Commissioner said.

The appeal by Ms. Bachelet follows seven weeks of conflict in northern Ethiopia between central government soldiers and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces that have displaced tens of thousands.

Although the government of Ethiopia had repeatedly alleged that the TPLF forces were involved in violations of international law “without access it remains challenging to verify these allegations”, Ms. Bachelet added.

Citing many alleged atrocities, the UN rights chief pointed to the alleged mass killing of several hundred people, mainly Amharans, in the western Tigray town of Mai Kadra, on November 09.

“I urge the authorities to build on the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s preliminary findings into what happened in Mai Kadra,” she said, in reference to the panel’s report that a Tigrayan youth militia was responsible, supported by local security forces.

“It is essential that there are investigations into allegations of human rights violations there against both Amharans and Tigrayans.”

Ms. Bachelet said that while telephone lines are beginning to be restored in some areas, the communications blackout that began on 4 November and restrictions on access raise significant concerns that the human rights and humanitarian situation is even more dire than feared.

Ms. Bachelet also echoed the concern expressed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, for the safety and wellbeing of some 96,000 Eritrean refugees registered in four camps in Tigray when fighting started.

Meanwhile, UNHCR on Tuesday launched an urgent appeal for US$156 million to help 130,000 people affected by the ongoing violence in Tigray.

Since fighting flared up in Tigray, more than 54,500 refugees have fled the Tigray region into Sudan, spokesperson for UNHCR, Andrej Mahecic, said on Tuesday.

The number of new arrivals has dropped to around 500 a day but aid agencies have been confronted with a “full-scale humanitarian emergency in a very remote area that has not seen such a large refugee influx in decades”, he told journalists in Geneva.

Mr. Mahecic explained that the requested funds are needed by 30 agencies in total to help Ethiopian refugees in the first half of next year.

He said funding will be used to register new refugees and transfer refugees to new settlements away from crowded border areas.

Other priorities include providing food, health and education services, with dedicated support for groups with specific needs, such as women and girls at risk, unaccompanied minors, people with disabilities and the elderly, Mr. Mahecic said. (Source: UN News)