News: Members of Congress call for sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Western Tigray

Amhara region police forces patrolling parts of Western Tigray. (Photo: Archive/Screenshot)

Addis Abeba – Three members of the US Congress have written a letter urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Western Tigray, in Ethiopia.

The letter, dated 20 July 2023, was written by Brad Sherman, James P. McGovern, and Lloyd Doggett. Specifically, the Congress members are calling for visa blocking and financial asset control sanctions against Colonel Demeke Zewdu and Belay Ayalew, who have been identified by Human Rights Watch as central figures in ongoing arbitrary detention, torture, and ethnic cleansing in West Tigray.

While the members of Congress expressed satisfaction with the progress made since the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement in November 2022, they emphasized the importance of holding accountable those who continue to engage in severe human rights violations. They stressed the need for lasting peace in Ethiopia. The letter states, “Given recent credible reporting that Amhara forces have, as late as March 2023, continued to detain and ethnically cleanse Tigrayan civilians, now is the time for the United States to take all available measures to hold the perpetrators responsible.”

The members of Congress also underscored that human rights groups have documented ongoing human rights abuses by all parties involved in the conflict since it began in November 2020. They referred to a report released on June 1, 2023, by Human Rights Watch, which provides extensive evidence of a new wave of ethnic cleansing targeting Tigrayan civilians carried out by Amhara militants following the peace agreement.

Human Rights Watch has urged the federal government to suspend, investigate, and appropriately prosecute commanders and officials implicated in serious rights abuses. The report also highlighted that local authorities and Amhara forces had detained over a thousand Tigrayans in the Western Tigray towns of Humera, Rawyan, and Adebai based on their identity before forcibly expelling them in November 2022 or January 2023.

The Ethiopian federal government rejected the report saying that it was a ” distorted and misleading” and said it is “not acceptable.” The government also accused HRW that it has chosen “a specific area and repeatedly prepared reports to achieve a different political mission under the guise of human rights agenda.” AS

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