UN condemns the killing of 3 MSF humanitarians in the Tigray region, Ethiopia
The United Nation has condemned the killing of 3 MSF humanitarians in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The UN described the act as an ‘appalling violation’ of international law.’
According to news reports, MSF lost contact with the vehicle ferrying workers from the Spanish branch of the agency, on Thursday afternoon. Their bodies were later discovered on Friday morning, close to the empty vehicle.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent, international medical humanitarian organization, made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff, operating worldwide.
The victims were identified as a Spanish national, Maria Hernandez, and Ethiopian staff members Yohannes Halefom Reda, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael. The MSF said in a statement “No words can truly convey our sadness, shock, and outrage against this horrific attack.”
The of MSF workers by unknown assailants in the restive Tigray region of Ethiopia drew swift condemnation from UN Secretary-General António Guterres who said on Saturday he was “deeply shocked” by the murders.
“I’m deeply shocked by the murder of three @MSF humanitarian workers in Tigray. This is totally unacceptable and an appalling violation of International Humanitarian Law. Perpetrators must be found and severely punished.” He said.
Conflict broke out in the Tigray region in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Troops from neighboring Eritrea also entered the conflict to support the Ethiopian government.
The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2 million from their homes to seek refuge in Sudan. The UN has also warned of a looming famine.
The UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement, she was outraged at the brutal murders. “Humanitarian and human rights workers are civilians and as such can never be targeted. Parties to the conflict must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The “shocking killings come as we continue to receive reports of ongoing serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses in Tigray”, she added, calling for a “timely, transparent, thorough investigation into the killing of our humanitarian colleagues and all reports of violations, and perpetrators must be held accountable.”
In a message on Twitter, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino, said he was shocked by the killing of the MSF workers, “who was serving some of the most vulnerable people…IOM condemns in the strongest terms, the targeting of aid workers in conflicts.”
Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, said he was “shocked by the terrible news”, adding that the workers had been “simply trying to help others in great need…our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends during this difficult time.”
Missile strikes in Tigray region
The Tigray conflict has continued unabated in recent days, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. On Tuesday last week, amidst conflicting accounts, an Ethiopian Government airstrike hit a market in the village of Togoga, reportedly killing many civilians, including women and children.
On Friday, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement strongly condemning the attack, expressing his “deepest condolences to the families of the victims”.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the need for all parties to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law and to ensure the protection of civilians. He calls for an independent and swift investigation into this incident.”
He called once again, “for an immediate end to the fighting and for urgent steps to peacefully resolve the conflict.”
The UN humanitarian response to the highly volatile and complex security situation includes getting food assistance to around 5.2 million in need. So far around 3.7 million people have been accessed.
More than 1,000 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition and around 5,000 for moderate acute malnutrition in recent days, while more than 22,000 received medical services in the second week of June.