The United States Department of the Treasury on Monday sanctioned an Eritrean official who is accused of engaging in serious human rights abuses committed during the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is blacklisting General Filipos Woldeyohannes, the chief of staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), it said in a statement.
The Treasury accuses EDF troops of massacres, looting, rape, torture, executions, and purposely shooting civilians in the street.
“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to imposing costs on those responsible for these despicable acts, which worsen a conflict that has led to tremendous suffering by Ethiopians,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki said in a press release.
“We urge Eritrea to immediately and permanently withdraw its forces from Ethiopia, and urge the parties to the conflict to begin ceasefire negotiations and end human rights abuses,” she added, echoing repeated calls by the US for the removal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million have been displaced in the Tigray region since fighting between the federal army and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) broke out in November.
An estimated five million people are in need of humanitarian aid and more than 400,000 people are experiencing famine conditions due to the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Treasury said in the statement.
Internally displaced persons in Tigray have given accounts of “a systematic effort by the EDF to inflict as much harm on the ethnic Tigrayan population as possible”. They have also reported that in some cases, the EDF used knives or bayonets to slash open the torsos of pregnant women and then left them for dead, the statement said.
Speaking to reporters last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told journalists that he is gravely concerned about the situation in Ethiopia, particularly the “unspeakable violence” against women in Tigray.
And briefing the UN Security Council last month, the UN’s Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ramesh Rajasingham painted a grim picture of the situation on the ground and confirmed reports of rampant serious sexual and gender-based violence.
“The lives of many of these people [in Tigray] depend on our ability to reach them with food, medicine, nutrition supplies, and other humanitarian assistance,” Rajasingham told the 15-member council.