The following is a transcript of remarks UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made at a press
conference in Geneva on 9 December 2020 in response to questions on Ethiopia:
“The situation in Ethiopia is exceedingly worrying and volatile and – as I had warned – is spiraling out of control,
with appalling impact on civilians.
In the Tigray region itself, fighting is reportedly continuing - in spite of Government claims to the contrary. We have
reports that particularly areas surrounding towns like Mekelle, Sherero, Axum, Abiy Addi, and the borders between the
Amhara and Tigray regions, fighting continues between federal forces and the TPLF, and affiliated militias on both
We have corroborated information of gross human rights violations and abuses – including indiscriminate attacks against
civilians and civilian objects, looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls. There are reports of
forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities.
A major impediment is that communication in the region remains limited, and we have been unable to access the worst
affected areas so are unable to fully verify these allegations through fact-finding missions.
There is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the Tigray region, for all necessary
measures to protect civilians, and for accountability for violations.
The humanitarian situation is deeply distressing. In spite of an agreement between the Government and the UN, unfettered
humanitarian access has not been possible. I appeal to the Government to fulfill the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure
humanitarian access, and to ensure access to water, electricity and other basic needs is restored.
Elsewhere in Ethiopia, there are numerous reports of ethnic profiling of Tigrayans, including in Addis. We have reports
of dismissals from jobs – including in the civil service – harassment of Tigrayan journalists and hate speech against
Tigrayans. Such discriminatory actions are deeply unjust but are also fostering divisiveness and sowing the seeds for
further instability and conflict. I urge the Government to take immediate measures to halt such discrimination.
We are also concerned that there has been a reported rise in intercommunal violence in recent weeks in other parts of
Ethiopia, particularly in the Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, Afar and Oromia regions, which has reportedly resulted
I urge the Government to ensure that humanitarian actors can do their life-saving work without fear of attack, and to
ensure that those responsible for attacks against humanitarian workers are held accountable in accordance with
international human rights and humanitarian laws and standards.”