• Press Release

US Backtracks on Ethiopia Atrocity Determination

June 30, 2023

This week the US Treasury Department notified Congress that based on a State Department assessment, it no longer believes that the Ethiopian government is engaging in a “pattern of gross violations of human rights,” paving the way for the Treasury Department to engage on Ethiopia with economic aid institutions, including the International Monetary Fund. In March, Secretary Antony Blinken announced a US government atrocity determination that all parties to the conflict in northern Ethiopia committed war crimes. It found that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and Amhara forces also committed crimes against humanity, “including murder, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution.” 

In April, Amnesty International released a statement calling for the release of imprisoned journalists after the outbreak of violence in Amhara region that resulted in the killing of two humanitarian workers. In June, Human Rights Watch released findings that authorities in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone had continued an ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans after the November 2022 truce. The report documents allegations of torture, arbitrary detention, and forced expulsion by Ethiopian authorities in Western Tigray. Also in June, the US government suspended food aid to Ethiopia after a USAID investigation uncovered a scheme, coordinated by Ethiopian federal and regional authorities, to steal donated aid. 

The following quotes can be attributed respectively to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA:

“We’re deeply concerned that the US government no longer believes that gross violations of human rights are occurring in Ethiopia,” said Sarah Yager, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch. “Not only does the decision ignore the reality that grave human rights violations are continuing throughout the country, but sends a disastrous signal that US atrocity determinations come with few consequences.”

“The Biden administration purports to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy yet their declaration that gross violations of human rights are no longer occurring flies in the face of this promise,” said Amanda Klasing, National Director for Government Relations and Advocacy at Amnesty International USA. “Since the cessation of hostilities, Ethiopian authorities have not taken meaningful steps towards justice and accountability for crimes committed during the conflict in northern Ethiopia. To make such a determination before we’ve seen commitment to justice and accountability, and while reports of violations are ongoing, would be a politically expedient decision at the expense of survivors and victims.”

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