Aggressive rhetoric from both sides of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region could lead to further violations of international humanitarian law, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Tuesday.
Her remarks are coming as the end of the central government’s 72-hour deadline for rebels to surrender approaches.
Meanwhile, the UN’s refugee organisation has said that more than 40,000 Ethiopians fleeing the fighting have now entered neighbouring Sudan.
Bachelet expressed alarm at reports of a heavy build up of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, following the announcement of a 72-hour ultimatum on Sunday.
“The highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger,’’ she said.
The conflict between the Ethiopian government and Tigray began earlier this month when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed troops to put down an uprising by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The TPLF long dominated Ethiopian politics, but since taking office in 2018, reformist Abiy has been at odds with the elites in Tigray, purging them from government and state institutions.
Both sides have reported bloodshed, but an internet blackout and blocked telephone lines make it difficult to get a sense of what is happening on the ground in Tigray.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim