Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images
The State Department announced Sunday visa restrictions for Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials and members of security forces over atrocities tied to a months-long conflict in northern Ethiopia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced that the U.S. has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia after parties to the conflict in Tigray have “taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities.”
The U.S. will continue with humanitarian assistance and other critical aid to Ethiopia including health, food, education, human rights, democracy, and other areas. The Biden administration will continue with its broad restrictions on aid to Eritrea.
Prior to taking these steps, the Biden administration had repeatedly called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from the Tigray region and asked for the African Union to help resolve the crisis, to no avail.
We have repeatedly voiced our grave concerns over continued human rights violations and abuses in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Starting today, we are taking steps to impose visa restrictions on those we believe to be responsible for perpetrating the conflict.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 23, 2021
Thousands of people have died since November in the conflict in Ethiopia’s northernmost region. At least 2 million people are reported to have been displaced.
Tigray borders Eritrea and is home to most of Ethiopia’s estimated 7 million ethnic Tigrayans. In early November, the regional government — controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a leftist political party — launched a full-scale siege of a key Ethiopian military base at Sero. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a federal offensive against the region in response, setting off the conflict.
The situation has since devolved into a full-scale humanitarian crisis with reports of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and indiscriminate shelling of some towns in the Tigray region. Eritrean troops have also been blamed for mass killings and large scale attacks on civilians.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the killings, forced removals, systemic sexual violence, and other human rights violations and abuses,” Blinken said. “We are equally appalled by the destruction of civilian property including water sources, hospitals, and medical facilities, taking place in Tigray.”
The U.S. is calling on the Ethiopian government to meet public commitments to hold those responsible for such human rights violations and abuses, to protect civilians, and to ensure humanitarian access.
Blinken said Sunday, “We call for the Eritrean government to live up to its public commitment and immediately return its troops to internationally recognized Eritrean territory.”
Sunday’s announcement is the latest step from the international community to hold those responsible for the Tigray atrocities to account. The European Union delayed budget support payments to Ethiopia following reports of the crisis.