We, the undersigned human rights organizations, would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations in New York. Your appointment comes at a time of unprecedented crisis, with a global pandemic and a multitude of conflict-related crises that demand the attention of the UN Security Council. This includes the worsening situation in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Since 4 November 2020 an armed conflict between Ethiopian federal and allied forces from the Amhara region, alongside Eritrean troops, against forces affiliated with the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has forced at least 2.2 million people to flee their homes, with over 61,000 fleeing to Sudan. Reports indicate that widespread violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law have been perpetrated, including crimes that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. This includes massacres, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, unlawful killings, widespread pillage, looting, rape and sexual violence, destruction of refugee camps and crops, arrests and killing of journalists and humanitarian workers, and impeding access to vital aid. There have been reports of ethnically motivated violence and forced displacement of Tigrayans in parts of Tigray, as well as ethnic profiling of Tigrayans in other parts of Ethiopia and abroad, including those serving in UN and African Union peacekeeping missions. Some of Tigray’s ancient cultural heritage and protected religious sites have also been targeted, looted and/or partially destroyed.
As the body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has discussed Tigray four times since November 2020 under Any Other Business (AOB). However, the informality of these discussions sends a signal regarding a lack of urgency in the face of the dire humanitarian situation, grave human rights abuses and ongoing and flagrant violations of international law. Mounting reports of grave human rights abuses in Tigray, and the involvement of multiple armed actors, including forces from Eritrea in some of the most serious violations, could have a negative impact on the broader regional rights and security context. We therefore respectfully urge you to prioritize the crisis during your UNSC presidency, sending a clear message to the Ethiopian government and all forces involved in the conflict, that atrocity crimes and human rights abuses need to end and those responsible held to account. We welcome your announcement that the signature event of your presidency will focus on conflict-induced starvation and hunger, including in Ethiopia and Yemen, and your statement following the 4 March AOB meeting. Still, organizing at least one open public Council meeting focused on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Ethiopia would send a clearer message to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that atrocity crimes, ongoing human rights abuses and continuing insecurity in Tigray will not be ignored.
Your Excellency, during your Senate confirmation hearing you voiced your concern regarding the situation in Tigray and called on the UN to tackle the issue, including through a “frank and open discussion” with Prime Minister Abiy. We were encouraged to see Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s 28 February statement condemning the abuses taking place in Tigray and agree that the international community needs to work together to prevent further atrocities. We note the Biden Administration’s declared commitment to a return to multilateralism, and hope that you will use your Council presidency to shine a spotlight on the plight of civilians in Tigray, and mobilize an appropriate diplomatic response given the gravity of the crisis.
1. Amnesty International
2. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
3. Human Rights Watch
4. International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
5. International Service for Human Rights
6. Mennonite Central Committee UN Office
7. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
8. Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations
9. World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy