All sides in the deepening conflict in northern Ethiopia region are committing “severe human rights violations,” the United Nations said on Friday, calling for them to pull back from their year-old war.
An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people are detained, including nine UN staff, under a state of emergency and its “excessively broad provision” declared by the government last month, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada al-Nashif, said.
“Many are detained incommunicado or in unknown locations. This is tantamount to enforced disappearance, and a matter of very grave alarm,” she told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Ethiopia’s ambassador to the council, Zenebe Kebede, did not comment directly on the accusations of detentions, but told the UN body it had failed to condemn what he said was a series of abuses by rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region.
“Ethiopia is being targeted and singled out at the Human Rights Council for defending a democratically elected government, the peace and the future of its people,” he said in a speech during the session.
Thousands of civilians have died and millions fled in the conflict between the federal government and the forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for nearly 30 years.
The UN’s Al-Nashif told the council the latest arrests included 83 people detained by local forces this week in Guji zone of Oromia region, under the government’s state of emergency.
A further 1,500 people of Tigray and Gumuz ethnicity were reportedly detained last week in Asosa, Benishangul-Gumuz region, she added.
“I also deplore increasing hate speech and incitement to violence by federal and regional authorities, as well as other public figures, particularly targeted against Tigrayans and members of the Oromo community,” al-Nashif said.
The forum will consider a draft resolution brought by the European Union (EU) that condemns violations committed by all sides and, if adopted, would set up an international commission of rights experts on Ethiopia to investigate further and report back after a year.
Ethiopia’s Zenebe rejected the resolution and said the government would not work with any such commission.
He added that the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had already worked with the UN rights council to investigate accusations of abuses, and was ready to do so again.
A joint investigation published last month by the UN human rights office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission found that all sides in Tigray’s conflict had committed violations that may amount to war crimes.