U.S. lawmakers are calling for action amid reports of group rapes, ethnic cleansing and war crimes by Ethiopian Eritrean forces.
A senior U.S. official said the Biden administration is preparing to impose additional sanctions on Ethiopia and Eritrea if attacks on civilians in the Tigray region continue and is reviewing whether war crimes have been committed.
“The violence in Tigray is horrible. It raises awareness, “U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Godec said Thursday.
The US has called on the parties to end the conflict, allow humanitarian access and stop human rights abuses. “If we do not see immediate progress on these fronts,” Godec said, “we will impose additional sanctions.”
Now, in its seventh month, the Tigray conflict has killed thousands and put up to five million at risk of starvation. atrocities committed by the armed forces of the region.
Godec condemned “brutal killings, sexual violence, including gang rape, forced relocations and involuntary destruction of civilian property” in Tigray.
Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have unleashed a “campaign of non-stop violence and destruction that amounts to the collective punishment of the people of Tigray,” Godec said.
Amhara regional government forces are forcing Tigrayans into their home in “acts of ethnic cleansing,” Godec said at a hearing in the U.S. Senate.
The Biden administration has suspended U.S. economic and security assistance to Ethiopia, a former U.S. ally in the region, and is considering imposing new sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean military and government officials, he said. Godec.
Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress are united in their alarm and condemnation of what is happening in Tigray. Lawmakers have called for an international arms embargo on participants in the conflict and are targeting economic sanctions.
“Many of us believe they are war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate committee.
“We cannot turn a blind eye when these things happen in the world,” said Menendez, who along with other U.S. lawmakers has called on the Biden administration to act harder to pressure the Ethiopian government to end the conflict. .
The administration has pledged $ 305 million in new humanitarian aid for Tigray and Biden has appointed Jeffrey Feltman, special envoy for the Horn of Africa.
President Joe Biden on May 26th asked for withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from the Tigray region, Ethiopia, and said immediate humanitarian access should be granted to prevent widespread famine in the conflict-ravaged area.
“The belligerents of the Tigray region should declare and adhere to the ceasefire, and the Eritrean forces and Amhara should withdraw,” Biden said in a May 26 statement.
“All parties, particularly Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, must allow immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to the region to prevent widespread famine,” he said.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned earlier this week that Ethiopia is at risk of starvation because of the conflict.
“There is a serious risk of starvation if assistance does not increase in the next two months,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN’s secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency coordinator. report the AFP news agency.
Five million people in Tigray and south of the border need humanitarian aid, Sarah Charles, deputy administrator of the U.S. International Development Agency, told Senate committee.
“The magnitude of the need is impressive,” and armed groups have provoked widespread, gender-based violence “so brutal that women are left with organ damage,” Charles said.
Conditions in Ethiopia echo a widespread famine in the 1980s that killed more than 1.2 million people and displaced millions more, according to U.S. officials.
“If Ethiopia continues on the path it is taking, there is a risk of a massive humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis and it poses a risk to the wider region,” Godec said.
“We have made it very clear that if we do not see immediate progress … Ethiopia and Eritrea can expect more action,” Godec said.