Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has expressed concern that the rhetoric on both sides ahead of what it is feared will be a major battle for the regional capital, Mekelle, “is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger”
“I fear such rhetoric will lead to further violations of international humanitarian law,” she warned.
“Such rhetoric suggests possible breaches of the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities that are designed to ensure the civilian population is protected.”
According to press reports, there are heavy buildup of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, following the Ethiopian Government’s 72-hour ultimatum to the forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender. The deadline will be reached in a matter of hours.
The UN human rights chief’s statement was made in response to reports that TPLF fighters were stationing themselves among the civilian population.
However, this does not give the Ethiopian Government “carte blanche to respond with the use of artillery in densely populated areas” as it seeks to take control of the region, she added, stressing that under international law, parties to a conflict should take all possible measures to protect civilians.
“I remind all parties to the conflict that the obligation to respect international law is not conditional on the other party’s behavior. All parties to the conflict are bound to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law as applicable. The protection of civilians is paramount,” she said.
Fighting between Ethiopia’s central government and forces in Tigray has been going on for almost three weeks.
Nigel Bell, Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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