Ethiopia. The conflict in course in the region of the Tigray. Protect civilians uphold human rights, UN tells warring the parties.

Protect civilians uphold human rights, UN tells warring parties in Ethiopia.

According to UNHCR, the number of refugees streaming into eastern Sudan has surpassed 40,000 since the crisis began. The UN’s top human rights official has called on the parties to the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region to give “clear and unambiguous orders” to their forces not to target civilians, and protect them from assault.

Peace and Security.

of Benedetto Loprete

United Nations; Office of New York, the 24th of november 2020

In a statement on Tuesday, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced concern that rhetoric on both sides ahead of what it is feared will be a major battle for the regional capital, Mekelle, “is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the parties to the conflict in the region of the Tigray to give clear and unambiguous orders to their forces to take constant care to spare and protect civilians from the hostilities. “I fear such rhetoric will lead to further violations of international humanitarian law”, she warned.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the parties in the course of her statement concerning to the conflict in Tigray to give clear and unambiguous orders to their forces to take constant care to spare – and protect – the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.

“Threat of major hostilities in Mekelle seriously imperils civilian lives”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday has urged.

“The highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger”, the High Commissioner said. “I fear such rhetoric will lead to further violations of international humanitarian law”, she added, expressing alarm at reports of a heavy build-up of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray province following the Government’s issuance of a 72-hour ultimatum.

“Such rhetoric suggests possible breaches of the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities that are designed to ensure the civilian population is protected”.

Responding to allegations that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is stationing itself among civilians, Bachelet stated that under international law, parties to a conflict should take all possible measures to protect the civilian population under their control from the effects of attacks, namely by avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives in densely populated areas.

“However, this does not then give the Ethiopian State carte blanche to respond with the use of artillery in densely populated areas. I remind all parties to the conflict that the obligation to respect international law is not conditional on the other party’s behavior. All parties to the conflict are bound to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law as applicable. The protection of civilians is paramount”.

In particular, the High Commissioner recalled that it is prohibited to treat as a single military objective a number of distinct military objectives located in a densely populated area.

Bachelet said she was deeply disturbed at the continuing communication blackout in Tigray province, making it very difficult for civilians to communicate with family members, and for the UN to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation. Reports continue to emerge of arbitrary arrests and detentions, killings, as well as discrimination and stigmatization of ethnic Tigrays. More than 40,000 people have fled from Tigray province into neighbouring Sudan since 7 November.

“I implore all parties to respond positively to attempts at dialogue, and to ensure unfettered access to humanitarian assistance for those who so desperately need it, and protection and security for aid workers”, the High Commissioner said”.

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The Appointment of AU envoys for Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis an “initiative for peace”: UN chief has substained and welcomed.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the African Union’s (AU) appointment of three high-level envoys to help resolve the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, calling it an “initiative for peace”.

The envoys are Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former Liberian President, and Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa.

They were appointed on Friday by the AU Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

In welcoming the decision, the Secretary-General underlined the UN’s support for efforts towards ensuring a peaceful, stable and prosperous Ethiopia, according to a statement issued later that day by his Spokesperson.

“He commends the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, for this initiative and extends the full support of the United Nations. He also expresses his appreciation to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia for facilitating this initiative for peace”, he has said.

More than 30,000 people have fled Tigray region, located in northern Ethiopia, for Sudan in the past two weeks to escape fighting between national and regional forces. The UN estimates that up to 200,000 could arrive in the coming months.

The statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General – concerning the conflict in course in the region of the Tigray in Ethiopia.

The Secretary-General welcomes the appointment by the African Union today of three high-level Envoys in support of efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. He commends the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, for this initiative and extends the full support of the United Nations. He also expresses his appreciation to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia for facilitating this initiative for peace.

The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support efforts towards ensuring a peaceful, stable and prosperous Ethiopia.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General”.

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“Such rhetoric suggests possible breaches of the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities that are designed to ensure the civilian population is protected”.

There are reports of a heavy build up of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, following the Ethiopian Government’s 72-hour ultimatum to the forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender. The deadline will be reached in a matter of hours.

The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has said that – “he is deeply concerned”.

Later in the day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement he was “deeply concerned over the unfolding situation in the Tigray region”, and urged “the leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians, uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access for the provision of much-needed assistance. He also calls for the free and safe movement of people searching for safety and assistance, regardless of their ethnic identity, across both national and international borders”.

Protection of civilians “paramount”.

The UN human rights chief’s statement was made in response to reports that TPLF fighters were stationing themselves among the civilian population.

However, this does not give the Ethiopian Government “carte blanche to respond with the use of artillery in densely populated areas” as it seeks to take control of the region, she added, stressing that under international law, parties to a conflict should take all possible measures to protect civilians.

“I remind all parties to the conflict that the obligation to respect international law is not conditional on the other party’s behaviour. All parties to the conflict are bound to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law as applicable. The protection of civilians is paramount”, she said.

Refugees swell beyond 40,000.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian refugees continue to stream into Sudan, with the number surpassing 40,000 since the crisis began, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported, adding that humanitarian needs are outpacing the response capacity.

“[We] have been able to deliver and distribute life-saving aid, including food, to more people. But the humanitarian response continues to face logistical challenges and remains overstretched. There is not enough shelter capacity to meet the growing needs”, Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, told journalists at a media briefing in Geneva.

Mr. Baloch also voiced concern over the situation of civilians, including displaced persons and aid workers in the Tigray region.

He reiterated the call on all parties to enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic background.

Free, safe access “urgently needed”.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around half a million people, including about 200 humanitarian workers remain in Mekelle.

He also said that OCHA has finalized a humanitarian preparedness plan intended to help 2 million people with assistance in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, which includes existing humanitarian caseloads and an additional 1.1 million people expected to be in need of assistance as a result of the conflict.

“To support this plan, about $76 million will still be needed to finance it”, added Mr. Laerke.

The Secretary-General said in his statement that he was giving “the full support of the United Nations to the initiative of the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, to facilitate peaceful solutions. He urges all parties to seize this opportunity to de-escalate tensions”.

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United Nations “extremely concerned” for safety of Tigray civilians in regional capital, as refugee numbers grow.

The UN on Monday said it was “extremely concerned” over the safety of civilians across Ethiopia’s Tigray region, as fighting between Government troops and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) reportedly continued, with the Ethiopian Prime Minister having called on opposition forces to surrender the capital Mekelle, by Wednesday.

Due to a near total communications blackout across Tigray, establishing facts on the ground is proving difficult, but UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told correspondents at UN Headquarters that more than half a million people remain in Mekelle “following information that fighting might move into the city in the coming hours”.

The TPLF was formerly the dominant political party of government in Ethiopia, losing out at the ballot box in 2018, when Abiy Amed won the prime ministership that April, forming a ruling coalition that the TPLF reportedly declined to join.

The TLPF’s leader has reportedly rejected the ultimatum to surrender, and pledged to fight on, denying also that Mekelle was encircled on Monday.

“The UN and its humanitarian partners in Ethiopia are urgently calling on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, and water systems”, added Mr. Dujarric.

Free and safe movement.

Humanitarian colleagues are stressing that it is urgent that all parties to the conflict enable the free and safe movement of civilians fleeing in search of safety and assistance, “including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification”, he said.

The UN together with partners in Ethiopia, is on standby to provide humanitarian assistance to people impacted by the conflict. But the UN Spokesperson made it clear that for aid to reach those in need, “free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is urgently needed”.

Nearly 39,000 people have now fled across the border into neighbouring Sudan, including 17,000 children. The response is scaling up, he added, “but the influx of arrivals is outpacing the capacity on the ground and additional funding is urgently needed”.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has begun to relocate refugees from transit centres to a displacement settlement in Um Raquba, where the UN reproductive and maternal health agency UNFPA, is working with partners to provide critical services.

“Slaughtered in front of my own eyes”.

A majority of the relocated refugees are women and children: “I have seen men are slaughtered in front of my own eyes. I cannot forget that”, one young woman told UNFPA officials in the southeast Sudanese camp at Um Raquba, during a needs assessment in the past few days.

“I ran from home when the gunfire was going off. I still don’t know where my father and brothers are”.

Many of the women and girls are fearful for their safety. Vulnerability to gender-based violence often increases during humanitarian crises.

“When I left, I fled with seven children. We travelled for four nights on foot across the bush and forest. During day, we hid”, one 37-year-old refugee told UNFPA. “I have two daughters, 20 and 18 years old. I cannot sleep soundly because I have anxiety over the safety of my daughters”.

Additionally, refugees lack safe toilets and private shower facilities. Women and girls have resorted to walking some distance from the settlement to relieve themselves in the open, exposing them to potential violence.

UNFPA and partners are stepping in to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Psychological first aid and trauma counselling are urgently needed, the agency said.

Reproductive health needs unmet.

Women’s reproductive health needs are also dangerously unmet. The nearest referral health facility able to provide post-rape treatment or emergency obstetric care is about 40 minutes from Um Raquba.

“One woman lost her baby after nine months of pregnancy due to a lack of services”, said Massimo Diana, UNFPA’s Representative in Sudan. The woman had arrived at the health centre too late to deliver safely.

“No woman should have to go through this, and we are working to ensure services are available to save lives”, he added.

UNFPA estimates that, of the newly arrived refugees in Sudan, more than 700 are likely to be pregnant, and there may be around 150 survivors of gender-based violence in need of assistance. This estimate is based on the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health in Crisis calculations, wherein around 2 per cent of women of reproductive age are expected to experience sexual violence.

More than 7,500 refugees are estimated to be women of reproductive age.

“The first day I arrived in this camp, I began menstruating,” one 26-year-old refugee told UNFPA. “One day, I stayed wearing stained, bloody clothes. Then I sold my only valuable – my Android phone – to buy underwear, cotton and soap to deal with menstruation”.

UNFPA responding.

UNFPA is working to establish safe spaces for these women and girls, where they can find psychosocial support and referrals to health and other services. With partners, UNFPA is also working to distribute dignity kits, which contain hygiene supplies such as sanitary napkins, clothing, soap, undergarments and other necessities.

UNFPA has provided clean delivery kits containing basic supplies to facilitate a safe childbirth, including antiseptic cream, a razor to cut the umbilical cord, a sterile sheet for a woman to deliver on, and a blanket to warm the baby. More comprehensive emergency reproductive health kits are being provided to health workers and to clinics that are being set up on-site.

“The situation for these women and girls is extremely difficult, and there is widespread trauma. We are working urgently with our partners to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and psychosocial support, and to protect women and girls from harm”, said Dr. Natalia Kanemv, UNFPA Executive Director.

“With many more people expected to cross the border, additional support will be critical to meet rising needs”.

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United Nations; Office of New York, the 24th of november 2020

Benedetto Loprete

Source:
Protect civilians uphold human rights, UN tells warring parties in Ethiopia.

Source:
Protect civilians uphold human rights, UN tells warring parties in Ethiopia.