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News: UN special advisor on genocide expresses alarm over the worsening situation in different parts of Ethiopia

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide. Photo: UN

Addis Abeba, July 31/2021 – The Special Adviser of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General on the Prevention of  Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, in a statement discussing the deteriorating situation in Ethiiopia expressed alarm at the continuation of what she described as ‘ethnic violence’  in the country and the allegations of serious violations of international  humanitarian and human rights laws in the Tigray region as well as in other parts of the country,  including in Afar, Somali, Oromia and Amhara regions. 

The Special Adviser disclosed that since the beginning of the conflict in the Tigray region, she continued to  receive reports of serious human rights violations and abuses, including alleged sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary arrests and ethnic based targeted killings committed by all  parties, which have now escalated to other parts of the country. She also deplored the erosion of  rule of law and echoed the recent call by the Human Rights Council for an immediate end to the  violence and human rights violations in Tigray. 

The Special Adviser also condemned inflammatory statements used by top political leaders and associated armed groups. The use of pejorative and dehumanizing language like “cancer”, “devil”, “weed” and “bud” to refer to the Tigray conflict is of utmost concern. Hate speech,  together with its propagation through social media is part of a worrisome trend that contributes to  further fuel ethnic tensions in the country. “Such dynamics in the current socio-politico context, characterised by deep-seated ethnic tensions across the country, constitute a dangerous trajectory in the direction of further pulling communities apart” the Special Adviser added. 

“We have seen, in many places around the world, that the commission of atrocity crimes along  identity lines has been preceded by hate speech and incitement to violence.” the Special Adviser  said. She stressed that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited under international human rights  law, as well as under Ethiopian law.  

All Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit acknowledged their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes  against humanity, as well as their incitement. “I urge the Government of Ethiopia to fulfil its  responsibility and enhance efforts to prevent further escalation of violence and tensions among  communities, which have reached an unprecedented level. This responsibility includes working  towards a cessation of the ongoing hostilities” said the Special Adviser. “It is imperative that the  rights of all populations of Ethiopia are respected, irrespective of ethnicity or political  affiliation.” In this regard, she again reiterated her February 05, 2021 call on Ethiopian authorities to  establish national mechanisms to address the root causes of ethnic violence, build national  cohesion and promote reconciliation including by addressing hate speech. 

The Special Adviser stressed that those found responsible for human rights violations must be  held accountable. Failure to do so will only increase the risk of very serious international crimes  that Ethiopia has an obligation to prevent under international law. 

The Special Adviser also called on regional actors and the international community at large to  strengthen efforts for the protection of vulnerable populations in the country. She particularly  urged the African Union to provide the necessary assistance to end ethnic violence and enhance  efforts to mitigate all possible risks of atrocity crimes. Dispatch

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