Ethiopia says UN staff will face sanctions if they break the law

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Ethiopian staff working for the UN or the African Union do not live “in space” and will be punished for any breach of the law, the government said on Thursday after the arrest of several UN employees for unspecified offenses.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on November 2 after rebel forces in the northern Tigray region and their allies achieved territorial gains and threatened to march on the capital. Since then, hundreds of Tigrayans have been arrested in Addis Ababa, according to families and colleagues, along with 16 UN staff whose ethnicity has not been disclosed.

Seven UN staff were subsequently released. Police say the arrests are not on ethnic grounds.

“UN personnel residing in Ethiopia must respect the law of the land,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dina Mufti told a press conference. “They live in Ethiopia, not in space. Whether it is a UN or AU staff member, they will be held accountable. Foreign citizens have also been caught in the wave of arrests.

A very small number of British nationals have been detained in Ethiopia, and the British government has officially raised their case with Ethiopian authorities and requested immediate consular access, the British government told Reuters. A spokesperson for the US State Department said the US was concerned about reports of the detention of a number of US citizens in Ethiopia and was in discussions with the Ethiopian government about it.

An Italian aid worker was arrested on Saturday along with two Ethiopian colleagues, Italy’s foreign ministry and Volontariato Internazionale Per lo Sviluppo (VIS), the organization employing them, said. Dina reiterated the government’s position that it will not hold ceasefire talks with leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) as its forces have not yet withdrawn from neighboring areas of Amhara and from Afar.

He said the two other conditions for a ceasefire were for the Tigrayan forces to stop their attacks and recognize the legitimacy of the government. AU envoy for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo and US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman both visited Ethiopia this week to push for a ceasefire.

Feltman returned to Washington on Thursday to consult with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials in the Biden administration on U.S. diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, a State Department spokesperson said. “The United States remains committed to promoting a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia and to ensuring that life-saving humanitarian assistance reaches all Ethiopians who are suffering. The US mission in Ethiopia will continue to work towards these ends, including prioritizing the safety and security of US citizens. abroad through consular services, ”the spokesperson said.

Also on Thursday, state-affiliated broadcaster Fana reported that the Ethiopian army, fighting alongside regional forces and allied militias, had repelled attacks by Tigray forces near the town of Kemise in Amhara. The TPLF said last week it seized Kemise, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa. Reuters has not been able to independently verify this.

Fana also reported that soldiers pushed back Tigray forces trying to capture the town of Mille à Afar, located along the highway connecting the port of Djibouti to landlocked Ethiopia. The TPLF spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The spread of the conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than two million people from their homes. Two diplomatic sources said on Thursday that the European Union was evacuating non-essential personnel from Ethiopia. Several other nations have advised nationals to leave.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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