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UN Security Council Needs to Act on Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Urgently Address Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis

Children in front of the Africa/Ayga hotel likely damaged by a direct fire weapon in Humera town, Tigray region, Ethiopia, on November 22, 2020. © 2020 Eduardo Soteras for Agence France Press

Today is the fifth time the United Nations Security Council will discuss the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region behind closed doors. Five months into one of the world’s gravest humanitarian and human rights crises, the UN’s most powerful body needs to end its paralysis and support concrete measures to deter further abuses.  

China and Russia, permanent members to the Security Council, have undermined small efforts by other members to move discussions beyond the humanitarian situation and condemn ongoing abuses in Tigray. In its last discussion in March, the council didn’t reach a consensus and failed to issue a statement.

Meanwhile, evidence of war crimes and other atrocities in Tigray continues to mount, leaving no doubt over the gravity of the situation and its impact on Ethiopia and the wider region.

This week, after the Ethiopian government announced the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from its borders, Eritrean forces opened fire on civilians in the border town of Adwa, reportedly leaving at least nine dead and dozens injured. In late March, Ethiopian forces executed four men in front of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) staff. Health officials and the UN continue to report on horrific sexual violence by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. Millions remain in need of food assistance.

Greater scrutiny and unified action by the Security Council is needed for meaningful impact. The council should hold a public session and condemn the rights abuses and humanitarian disaster unfolding before their eyes. It should voice clear support for independent oversight of humanitarian assistance and an independent, international investigation into alleged crimes committed by all parties with the aim of paving the way for a credible accountability process. The council should also make clear that failure to cooperate with such efforts could result in targeted sanctions.

Tigrayans from all walks of life have repeatedly described feeling abandoned not only by their government but also the world. The UN Security Council needs to step up in the face of this blatant disregard for human suffering and international norms and take action today.

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