Addis Abeba, March 23-2021 – Josep Borrell, High representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the EU Commission, said the block is “ready to activate all our foreign policy tools against those responsible for human rights violations,” in connection with the ongoing armed conflict in Tigray regional state, and that “this applies to all parties to the conflict.”
In a remark issued in Brussles on March 22, Mr Borrell also said that he has “mandated the Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, to go back to the region on a second mission and express clearly our readiness to act if this situation continues.” The EU wants to “have humanitarian access to the region and we want an independent investigation on human rights abuses and we want Eritrean troops to be withdrawn.”
During his first mission to Ethiopia as EU’s envoy, the Finnish Foreign Minister accused the federal government of being in “denial” over the depth of the humanitarian crisis in Tigray which he said was spiraling “out of control.”
In response, Ambassador Hirut Zemene, Ethiopia’s envoy to Belgium, Luxembourg and EU institutions, said the envoy’s remarks were “regrettable” and do not “reflect the reality on the ground and contain unsubstantiated claims.” Ambassador Hirut also accused Mr Haavisto of showing “no interest to travel to the region, but instead resorted to visit the refugee camp in neighbouring Sudan and extrapolate grossly inadequate information to provide unfounded claims that put unnecessary pressure on the government of Ethiopia.”
Mr Borrell’s remarks yesterday came in the heels of EU Council’s decision to impose travel ban and asset freeze sanctions “on eleven individuals and four entities responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in various countries around the world”. Among the four entities targeted for sanction is Eritrea’s National Security Office headed by Major General Abraha Kassa with travel ban & asset freeze. The EU said the Office is “responsible for serious human rights violations in Eritrea, in particular arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture committed by its agents.” The security agency is under the supervision of President Isaias Afwerki.
Five months have passed since the beginning of the so-called “law and order operation” against the Tigray region. Since then, we have been receiving daily reports of human rights violations of massive scale including massive rape, torture, a complete blackout, lack of communication, lack of access to humanitarian help for the people of Tigray.
This is an unacceptable situation that pushes us to continue to put pressure for humanitarian access to be allowed, for independent investigations on human rights abuses to be launched and for Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from Tigray.
We are ready to activate all our foreign policy tools against those responsible for human rights violations. This applies to all parties to the conflict. I have mandated the Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, to go back to the region on a second mission and express clearly our readiness to act if this situation continues. We want to have humanitarian access to the region and we want an independent investigation on human rights abuses and we want Eritrean troops to be withdrawn.