The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Volker Turk, says the escalating hostilities in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region are taking a devastating toll on the civilian population and must stop. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
U.N. rights chief Volker Turk is alarmed at the latest surge of airstrikes launched on the Tigray region by the Ethiopian air force. He warns the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure risks worsening what already is a catastrophic situation.
The High Commissioner’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, says numerous reports have been received since August 31 of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects due to airstrikes and artillery strikes in Tigray.
“On civilian casualties, because of the communication, disruptions and difficulty accessing the sites, we do not have a comprehensive figure,” said Shamdasani. “What we have managed to document from the 31st of August to date, there have reportedly been at least 31 civilians, including children killed and 73 others wounded in 14 separate airstrikes launched by the Ethiopian Airforce in the Tigray region, including in Mekelle, Shire, and other parts of Tigray. But, of course this is very likely to be extremely underestimated because of the constraints that I mentioned.”
Fighting between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels resumed August 24, ending a five-month long humanitarian truce.
Since the conflict began nearly two years ago, millions of Tigrayans have been displaced. The United Nations estimates half a million people have died from conflict, hunger, disease, and lack of medical care. More than five million people need humanitarian assistance.
Shamdasani says the High Commissioner is concerned by mobilization exercises involving military reservists in Eritrea as well as the Tigrayan armed forces and the Ethiopian armed forces. She says the High Commissioner is appealing to all parties
to stop fighting and work towards a peaceful and lasting solution.
“Parties to the conflict must respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law by taking all feasible measures to protect civilians and civilian objects, and allowing humanitarian assistance to reach those in need…The High Commissioner stressed the need to support all efforts towards ensuring accountability for gross violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed during the conflict,” said Shamdasani.
Shamdasani says the Human Rights Office has raised its concerns with the Ethiopian government.
She says it has been urging the government to hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights violations in Tigray. Unfortunately, she notes, progress in this regard has been extremely slow.