Human Rights

Parties to the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia must cease all hostilities immediately and work towards a peaceful and lasting solution, the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, appealed on Tuesday. 

He warned that the latest alarming airstrikes risk seriously worsening the already devastating impact the fighting is having on civilians.   

“Since 31 August we have received numerous reports of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects due to airstrikes and artillery strikes in Tigray – disruptions to communication make it particularly difficult to verify reports, but it is clear that the toll on civilians is utterly staggering,” said Mr. Türk. 

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Aid worker killing denounced 

Ethiopian Government troops and Tigray forces have been at war for nearly two years.  There was a lull in the fighting following a five-month humanitarian truce, announced in late March, but hostilities have flared up again. 

A staff member with the International Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organization, was among those killed in recent incidents. 

The aid worker was part of a team delivering humanitarian assistance to women and children. Their death was “completely unacceptable”, said Mr. Türk. 

“I am also deeply troubled by the significant risk of escalation in light of continued mass mobilisation of soldiers and fighters by various parties to the conflict,” he added. 

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Attacks could be war crimes 

The UN rights chief appealed to the warring parties to end their conflict and work towards peace.   

He reminded them of their obligation to respect international human rights law, as well as international humanitarian law, including by taking measures to protect civilians and allow humanitarians to access people in need. 

“Under international law, indiscriminate attacks or attacks deliberately targeting civilians or civilian objects amount to war crimes,” said Mr. Türk.  

He further stressed the need to support efforts towards ensuring accountability for gross violations and abuses of international law committed during the conflict. 

The new High Commissioner 

Mr. Türk was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September, becoming the eighth person to hold the post. 

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The veteran Austrian diplomat has had some three decades of experience across all continents in human rights, international law and protection, including with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. 

The new rights chief took office on Monday, emphasizing that he will “always be guided – first and foremost – by the impact our work has on the people that we serve.” 

He succeeded twice-elected former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who served as High Commissioner from 1 September 2018 through 31 August 2022.