Ethiopia: Global Leaders to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - Stop the Atrocities in Tigray

Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in the country's northern Tigray region, rest and cook meals near UNHCR's Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan (file photo).

Dili — Seven highly respected leaders in conflict resolution have issued a call for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to take immediate action to bring a halt to the atrocities being committed in the Tigray region of his nation. The letter urges the Prime Minister to implement seven steps to resolve the crisis.

It was authored by José Ramos-Horta, former President of Timor-Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and five other international diplomats and peace builders, "colleagues and friends the Prime Minister knows well," including former President of Finland Tarja Halonen, former UN and Arab League Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, Emeritus Bishop of Oslo and former Vice Chair of the Nobel Committee Dr. Gunnar Stalsett, former President of Slovenia and former UN Assistant Secretary General and President of the World Leadership Alliance Danilo Turk, and former UN Under Secretary General and Special Envoy for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng.

The letter notes that "grave human rights violations and abuses are being committed against civilian Tigrayans, including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, looting and destruction of property, mass executions, arbitrary arrests, rape, forced displacement of populations, hate speech and stigmatization including ethnic profiling. These attacks have caused tens of thousands of Tigrayan children and adults to flee their homes and to seek refuge in Sudan under extremely deplorable conditions."

"As a result of this conflict, according to the United Nations, approximately 4.5 million of a population of 6 million people are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance," it says. "Between two and 2.5 million people in the region will experience severe food insecurity through September. News outlets from around the globe are also increasingly writing of horrifying stories of rape, torture, and mass arrests."

It recalls Abiy's own words, from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech two years ago, "there are those, 'who have never seen war, but glorify and romanticize it. They have not seen the fear. They have not seen the fatigue. They have not seen the destruction or heartbreak, nor have they felt the mournful emptiness of war after the carnage."

Specifically, the leaders urge Prime Minister Ahmed to:

1. Act now and swiftly to save his country and end the suffering of Ethiopians afflicted by war in Tigray.

2. Invite independent and credible investigations, in full cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, into human rights abuses and violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all actors in Tigray. We encourage the Prime Minister to ensure that other human rights organizations are provided access in order to independently investigate reports of human rights abuses and violations in Tigray.

3. Consider establishing a hybrid court empowered with jurisdiction to hold accountable Eritrean perpetrators of war crimes.

4. Fully cooperate with regional organizations and the international community to facilitate all-inclusive dialogue, reconciliation and healing, involving all political and civil society actors in Tigray with the goal of charting a consensual way forward for the region's future governance.

5. Lead calls for a cessation of hostilities by all parties involved and encourage other parties to commit to ending the fighting immediately. Press for the immediate and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara regional forces from the Tigray Region.

6. Facilitate the work of international humanitarian staff including by issuing long-duration visas, expediting the process for the importation and use of satellite communication technology by humanitarian organizations, and instructing your military and allied forces to establish a civil-military coordination cell to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations on the ground.

7. Issue orders to protect all civilians in Tigray and throughout Ethiopia regardless of their ethnicity, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and particularly women in the light of widespread reports of sexual and gender-based violence."

"It is clear that like all wars, the political dispute that led to the Tigray crisis cannot be resolved through military means alone," it states. "The suffering inflicted on the people in the region has already been too great. For the good of Ethiopia, and the good of the region and the world, we ask the Prime Minister to work toward a political solution as soon as possible. It is only through dialogue and negotiation that lasting peace can be established, and the healing for so many can begin."

There has been no response to date from Prime Minister Abiy.

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