Tigray: Escalating violence & restrictions to civic space requires action to protect those on the ground

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia

Delivered by Sibahle Zuma

Thank you, Mister President.

CIVICUS and its partners in Ethiopia thank the High Commissioner for the timely update on the human rights situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. We are deeply concerned at the high levels of violence exemplified in the attack of the Bahrale refugee camp on 3 February which resulted in five refugees killed and several women kidnapped by armed men. We are getting reports of Tigrayan fighters killing civilians, gang-raping women and girls and looting, including from hospitals, with impunity.

We are particularly concerned about restrictions that have made it nearly impossible for civilians to receive critical supplies from humanitarian organisations. Humanitarian operations in Tigray are largely reduced or suspended due to the lack of fuel, cash and other supplies. The ongoing fighting in Afar contributes to the large-scale displacements in the region and hinders the delivery of humanitarian supplies into Tigray.

Civic space in Tigray has shrunk considerably with the repression of civil society both by State and non-state actors. Telecommunications restrictions continue with the aim of controlling communication channels. These restrictions risk silencing victims and hinder access to information.

The special session in December 2021 highlighted the urgent need for investigations and accountability for the serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes, that have rocked Tigray since November 2021 and which continue to escalate.

We ask the High Commissioner to provide more information on how States can best support civil society, including humanitarian groups, and to protect those on the ground amidst worsening conditions.

We thank you.

 Civic space in Ethiopia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor