United States government said it was imposing wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia over the atrocities in Tigray, as well as barring current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials it deems responsible for the crisis.
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands more forced from their homes in the Tigray region since November after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched attacks on Ethiopian forces. Ethiopian troops and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have been accused of massacres and killings in their fight against the rebel group.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Sunday the new actions by the United States are to press for a resolution of the crisis: “The time for action from the international community is now.”
The Ethiopian government’s efforts to crush the TPLF rebellion have unleashed an ethnic witch hunt across the country, according to a Reuters investigation this month, which found Tigrayans have been arrested, harassed, sacked or suspended from their jobs, or had their bank accounts temporarily frozen.
Blinken said the United States may withhold visas as well for “members of the security forces, or other individuals—to include Amhara regional and irregular forces and members” of the TPLF it deems “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray.”
Blinken said the United States would continue humanitarian assistance and certain other critical aid to Ethiopia and would continue its existing broad restrictions on assistance to Eritrea.
He also warned that should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community.
Blinken said the parties “have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”
The U.S. called on the Ethiopian government to meet public commitments to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, to protect civilians, and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, Blinken said. He also urged the “Eritrean government to live up to its public commitment and immediately return its troops to internationally recognized Eritrean territory.”
Ethiopia’s government has come under increasing pressure from the international community to demonstrate accountability as reports of atrocities in Tigray mount. The European Union has suspended budget support payments amid reports of brutal gang rapes, mass killings of civilians and widespread looting in the northern region.
Ethiopia says it is committed to investigating human rights violations and both Ethiopia and Eritrea have promised a withdrawal of Eritrean troops.
The United Nations has said that war crimes may have been committed by all parties involved in the conflict.