US blacklists Eritrean protection official for abuse

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on an Eritrean official it accused of being involved in serious human rights violations in the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where thousands of people have been killed and more 2 million displaced people.

The US Department of the Treasury, in a statement, said it had blacklisted Filipos Woldeyohannes, the chief of staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF). The Treasury said it was in command of the EDF forces operating in Tigray.

The Treasury accused the forces of being responsible for massacres, sexual assaults and deliberate shooting of civilians in the streets, among other human rights abuses.

The United States has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. Eritrea sent troops to Tigray after Ethiopian federal forces launched an offensive in November in response to attacks on federal government bases by forces loyal to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).

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Eritrea denied for months that its troops were in the area, but then admitted their presence while denying that they were responsible for abuses.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea said in June that the country now had “effective control” over parts of Tigray, calling for the withdrawal of troops and a swift investigation into the abuses, including the abduction of refugees.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel did not respond to calls and texts for comment on Washington’s action on Monday.

“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to impose costs on those responsible for these despicable acts, which aggravate a conflict that has caused enormous suffering to Ethiopians,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury, in the statement.

“We urge Eritrea to immediately and permanently withdraw its forces from Ethiopia, and urge the parties to the conflict to enter into ceasefire negotiations and end human rights violations,” Gacki added.

President Joe Biden’s administration is well advanced in its assessment of whether to characterize the events as crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Robert Godec said in June. at the Office of African Affairs of the Department of State.

>> Focus: The plight of civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

Doctors said hundreds of women said they were subjected to horrific sexual violence by Ethiopian and Eritrean allied soldiers after fighting erupted in the mountainous region of northern Ethiopia, Reuters reported in April.

The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said last month that more than 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition over the next 12 months, as hundreds of thousands of children of the region are facing famine.



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