Biden administration investigating whether killings in Ethiopia’s Tigray region were crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes

The Biden administration is investigating whether the killings in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, in the past eight months, constituted crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Washington DC on Monday.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken participates in a virtual U.S. Embassy London meet and greet, in London, United Kingdom, on May 4, 2021. State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha 
Secretary Antony J. Blinken participates in a virtual U.S. Embassy London meet and greet, in London, United Kingdom, on May 4, 2021. State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

Asked whether the killings in Tigray, Ethiopia, and those of the Rohingya people in Myanmar constituted crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes, Blinken responded, “Look, both reviews are ongoing. We’re bringing together the facts, the legal assessments, and both are being very actively considered.”

Blinken took questions from reporters after making remarks on the release of the 2021 Congressional Report Pursuant to the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act.

Quoting Elie Wiesel who said the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference, Blinken asserted that the report released on Monday “represents a stand against indifference and a commitment to do more to prevent and respond to atrocities, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”

Early this year, Blinken said Ethiopian and Eritrean troops as well as militia allied to them targeted people in Tigray based on their ethnicity, a development that would constitute a genocide.

The United States does not do business with countries and leaders that engage in genocidal acts.

Although it is not clear who is conducting the investigation or making the assessment, the determination that genocide took place in Tigray would require prosecutions and more actions from the United States and the international community.

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Robert Faucher speaking on the release of the 2021 Congressional Report Pursuant to the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, said the report “draws attention to the heinous acts of sexual violence and gross human rights violations that have been reported in Tigray, Ethiopia, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, medical personnel, and humanitarian workers.”

“In terms of the situation in Tigray and what we – what’s represented in the report, the report goes through May of this year, and there have been developments since May in Tigray and among – with the election and various other things that have occurred.  We are still very concerned about the situation there.  We’re calling for all parties to respect the ceasefire,” Faucher said. “We’re calling for full humanitarian access into that region. It is very concerning to see what’s going on for the people there.” 

He added: “We are also asking for full cooperation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Council – their investigations into the allegations that are being made about what is going on there.  And at the same time, we want the Eritrean forces to withdraw and the full scope of the situation to basically be brought down several notches.” 

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerkii is welcomed by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene) 
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerkii is welcomed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene)

Secretary Blinken noted that the report was released just a day after the 26th anniversary of the genocide at Srebenica when more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim boys and men were slaughtered. 

“The American people join the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in solemn remembrance of those victims and in solidarity with their families.  We’re reminded of how important it is to do all we can to prevent atrocities like this from ever occurring,” Blinken said.

America’s top diplomat added that the Biden administration opposes repression everywhere, including in Cuba, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets on the island to exercise their rights to assemble peacefully and express their views. 

The protesters called for freedom and human rights and criticized Cuba’s authoritarian regime for failing to meet people’s most basic needs, including food and medicine. In many instances, peaceful protesters were met with repression and violence. 

“The Biden-Harris administration stands by the Cuban people and people around the world who demand their human rights and who expect governments to listen to and serve them rather than try to silence them. Peaceful protesters are not criminals, and we join partners across the hemisphere and around the world in urging the Cuban regime to respect the rights of the Cuban people to determine their own future, something they have been denied for far too long,” Blinken said.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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