UN Human Rights Chief expresses concern over unfolding violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region
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UN Human Rights Chief expresses concern over unfolding violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet voiced concern about the increased violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, indicating that such violence may amount to war crimes.

On November 4 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) to quell the Tigray Regional Paramilitary Police and other militia loyal to the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) in response to attacks by the Tigray militia forces. Since then, there have been multiple armed confrontations between the two groups, resulting in Ethiopian Air Force planes carrying out multiple air strikes against TPLF.

Amnesty International reported the death of hundreds of people in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region the night of November 9. While the identity of those responsible has yet to be confirmed, witnesses to the killings indicated that forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were responsible for the deaths of hundreds. Witnesses believe this attack was in response to TPLF’s defeat by the federal Ethiopian Defense Forces.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa stated, “we have confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians, who appear to have been day labourers in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive.”

In response to reports of mass killings in the Tigray Region, Bachelet expressed her concern:

There is a risk this situation will spiral totally out of control, leading to heavy casualties and destruction, as well as mass displacement within Ethiopia itself and across borders. If confirmed as having been deliberately carried out by a party to the current fighting, these killings of civilians would of course amount to war crimes, and there must be an independent investigation and full accountability for what has happened. However, the first priority right now must be to stop the fighting and prevent any further atrocities from taking place.

Bachelet also expressed concern over both the potential displacement of Eritrean refugees and the potential of this conflict to “spill across borders, potentially destabilizing the whole sub-region.”