Six nations, including the United States, voiced alarm on Monday over allegations of widespread arrests of Tigrayan people based on ethnicity in connection with the country’s year-old war, urging the administration to halt actions that they believe violate international law.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands referenced Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International reports on extensive arrests of ethnic Tigrayans, including Orthodox priests, elderly people, and women with children.
The nations expressed “deep concern” about the incarceration of individuals without charges, noting that the government’s declaration of a state of emergency last month provided “no rationale” for widespread detentions.
“Individuals are being arrested and detained without charges or a court hearing and are reportedly being held in inhumane conditions. Many of these acts likely constitute violations of international law and must cease immediately,” the six countries said in a joint statement.
They urged Ethiopia’s government to allow unhindered access by international monitors.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum and Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the statement.
The conflict between Ethiopian’s federal government and the leadership of Tigray has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions to flee their homes and made more than 9 million people dependent on food aid.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-largest nation and a regional diplomatic heavyweight, was once an ally for Western security forces seeking to counter Islamist extremism. Relations have soured amid increasing allegations of human rights abuses committed during the conflict.
The joint statement reiterated grave concern over human rights abuses including sexual violence and ongoing reports of atrocities committed by all sides.
“It is clear that there is no military solution to this conflict, and we denounce any and all violence against civilians, past, present and future,” the statement said.
Both sides in Ethiopia accuse each other of committing atrocities and both have denied the allegations.
The six countries in the statement called on the parties to the conflict to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire, reiterating calls from the United States and others for Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan forces to declare a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to enter Tigray.