US sanctions Ethiopian and Eritrean officials over Tigray conflict

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says more penalties could be imposed if the conflict continues

The US is placing visa bans on officials 'responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray'. Reuters
The US is placing visa bans on officials 'responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray'. Reuters

The US has announced sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials over the civil war in the Tigray region.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US is placing visa bans on officials “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray".

The sanctions target Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials and members of the security forces as well as “Amhara regional and irregular forces and members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front”. Visa bans may also be placed on immediate family members of those sanctioned.

“This includes those who have conducted wrongful violence or other abuses against people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia as well as those who have hindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in the region,” Mr Blinken said.

“Should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community. We call on other governments to join us in taking these actions.”

He also announced that Washington has “imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and will bring our defence trade control policy in line with them” while vowing to continue to provide humanitarian support.

The US has sent more than $300 million in aid to Tigray since the conflict broke out in November when Ethiopian and Eritrean forces entered the region with Amhara militias to conduct an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The conflict has displaced more than two million people and left another 4.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Ethiopia has blocked the UN from providing humanitarian aid to Tigray, enacted telephone and internet blackouts, and restricted journalists' access to the region.

Despite the telecoms and media blackout, there have been multiple reports of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces committing crimes against civilians, including sexual assault.

Mr Blinken described events in Tigray “ethnic cleansing”.

Although Eritrea vowed to pull its forces out of the region in March, Asmara has yet to do so. For this reason, Congress has pushed for sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials.

The US Senate unanimously passed a non-binding resolution last week calling for an immediate ceasefire in Tigray, as well as the withdrawal of Eritrean troops.

The Tigray Centre for Information and Communication hired the consulting firm Von Batten-Montague-York to lobby Congress to pass the resolution and urge the administration of President Joe Biden to levy human rights sanctions.

Updated: May 24, 2021 09:52 PM

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