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UN: Warring sides committing atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray | Humanitarian Crises News

UN experts on Monday said that there are reasonable grounds to believe that “war crimes and crimes against humanity” have been committed by the Ethiopian government in the Tigray region, warning that renewed conflict there increased the risk of “further atrocity crimes”.

In its first report, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia said it found that violations, such as extrajudicial killings and rape, have been committed by warring sides in Ethiopia since fighting erupted in the northern Tigray region in November 2020.

The commission, created by the UN Human Rights Council last year and made up of three independent rights experts, said it had “reasonable grounds to believe that, in several instances, these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

The report was issued as fighting resumed between the Ethiopian government and its allies, and forces backing the Tigray authorities following a tense five-month cessation of hostilities.

The commission said that Ethiopia’s beleaguered civilian population now faces renewed risks after enduring nearly two years of conflict, which has now expanded beyond Tigray to other areas of the country and risks spreading beyond Ethiopia’s borders, with consequences for peace in the entire Horn of Africa.

The experts highlighted the horrifying situation in Tigray, where the government and its allies have denied people access to basic services, including the internet, banking and electricity, for over a year.

This, combined with shortages of food, medicine and fuel as well as severe restrictions on humanitarian access have left some 20 million people in need of assistance and protection, nearly three-quarters of them women and children.

“The combined effect of these measures, which remain in effect more than a year later, has forced much of the population in Tigray to eat less and sell harvest and reproductive livestock. Sources also reported an increase in desperate means to survive, such as child marriage and child labour, human trafficking, and transactional sex,” the report said.

In a statement, Commission Chair Kaari Betty Murungi described the humanitarian crisis in Tigray as “shocking, both in terms of scale and duration”.

“The widespread denial and obstruction of access to basic services, food, healthcare, and humanitarian assistance is having a devastating impact on the civilian population, and we have reasonable grounds to believe it amounts to a crime against humanity,” she said.

“We also have reasonable grounds to believe that the Federal Government is using starvation as a method of warfare,” she added, calling on the government to “immediately restore basic services and ensure full and unfettered humanitarian access”.

In response to the report, Tigrayan authorities said they “have always maintained” that Ethiopia’s government was responsible for crimes against humanity in Tigray, according to a rebel spokesman.

“We have always maintained that,” Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told AFP in response to the commission’s accusation that Addis Ababa was committing atrocities in the conflict-torn region.

But Murungi also called on Tigrayan forces to “ensure that humanitarian agencies are able to operate without impediment.” The commission had received information indicating that Tigrayan forces have looted or otherwise misappropriated humanitarian aid.

After four years of anti-government protests and rising ethno-nationalist sentiment, the country’s ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) chose Abiy Ahmed as its new prime minister in 2018.

The federal government alleges that rebels led by the TPLF were behind a series of violent attempts to undermine the government, accusations the group denies. However, others say that anti-Tigrayan sentiment and hate speech in government statements contributed to an environment where dehumanising ethnic groups became the norm.

Tigray has been bombed several times since fighting resumed in late August between government forces and their allies, and rebels led by the TPLF, shattering a March truce and dashing hopes of peacefully resolving the conflict.

“The international community should not turn a blind eye, and instead increase efforts to secure a cessation of hostilities and the restoration of humanitarian aid and services to Tigray,” Murungi said.

“Failure to do so would be catastrophic for the Ethiopian people, and has wider implications for peace and stability in the region.”

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‘Dilemma for the Russians’ after surrendering key Ukraine city | Russia-Ukraine war News

The recapture of Lyman city in the east – in territory recently annexed by Moscow – raises questions about how Russia can hold surrounding areas with supply routes severed.

Questions about Russia’s faltering military operation in Ukraine continue to be raised as Kyiv announced it was in full control of the key eastern city of Lyman after Moscow’s troops pulled back.

It is Kyiv’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks, providing a potential staging post for increased attacks to the east while heaping further pressure on the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Sunday that his forces had taken over Lyman after encircling it the day before.

“As of 12:30pm (09:30 GMT) Lyman is cleared fully. Thank you to our militaries, our warriors,” he said in a video address.

Russia’s military did not comment on Lyman on Sunday after announcing the previous day it was withdrawing its forces there to move to “more favourable positions”.

‘Sort of a dilemma’

The loss of Lyman is a significant blow to Russian forces, who have used the city for months as a crucial logistics and rail hub in the Donetsk region to move military equipment, troops, and other necessary supplies.

“Without those routes, it will be more difficult so it presents a sort of a dilemma for the Russians going forward,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

Lyman, which Ukraine recaptured by encircling Russian troops, is in the Donetsk region near the border with the Luhansk region. These are two of the four regions or oblasts that Russia annexed on Friday after people there voted in referendums, which Ukraine and the West called illegitimate.

The Institute for the Study of War, a United States-based think-tank, said the fall of Lyman suggested Russia was “deprioritizing defending Luhansk” to hold occupied territory in southern Ukraine. 

“Ukrainian and Russian sources consistently indicate that Russian forces continued to reinforce Russian positions in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts, despite the recent collapse of the Kharkiv-Izyum front and even as the Russian positions around Lyman collapsed,” it said

‘Courage, bravery, skills’

In a daily intelligence briefing on Sunday, the United Kingdom’s military described the recapture of Lyman as a “significant political setback” for Moscow. Taking the city paves the way for Ukrainian troops to potentially push farther into Russian-occupied territory.

Ukraine’s capture of a city within territory of President Vladimir Putin’s declared annexation demonstrates that Ukrainians are able to push back Russian forces, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

“We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, are able to push back the Russian forces because of the courage, because of their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with American broadcaster NBC.

Ukrainian forces have retaken swaths of territory, notably in the northeast around Kharkiv, in a counteroffensive in recent weeks that has embarrassed the Kremlin and prompted rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war.

A pomp-filled Kremlin annexation ceremony on Friday has failed to stem a wave of criticism within Russia of how its “special military operation” is being handled.

Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, on Saturday called for a change of strategy “right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons”.

Other hawkish Russian figures criticised Russian generals and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on social media for overseeing the setbacks, but stopped short of attacking Putin.

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Will Israel and Lebanon resolve their maritime border dispute? | Oil and Gas

Video Duration 25 minutes 00 seconds

A long-running dispute between Israel and Lebanon may soon be resolved.

Both countries lay claim to the same stretch of ocean in the eastern Mediterranean that could contain lucrative gas deposits.

A US mediator has sent a written proposal to both nations to demarcate their border.

Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah have welcomed the offer. Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid also supports the deal, but former leader Benjamin Netanyahu has labelled it an “illegal hijacking” of Israeli territory.

So what is at stake?

Presenter: Folly Bah Thibault

Guests:

Laury Haytayan – Oil and gas analyst and political activist

Russell Shalev – Researcher, Kohelet Policy Forum

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Voting ends in Bosnia election set to bring little change

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Polls have closed Sunday in Bosnia’s general election in which voters chose their new leaders from among the long-established cast of sectarian candidates and their challengers who pledged to eradicate, if elected, corruption and clientelism in government.

Moments after vote count begun, Bosnia’s international overseer, Christian Schmidt, announced in a YouTube video that he was amending the country’s electoral law “to ensure functionality and timely implementation of election results.” Schmid assured citizens in the video that the changes “will in no way affect” the votes cast on Sunday for different levels of government that are part of one of the world’s most complicated institutional set-ups.

Bosnia’s power-sharing system was agreed upon in a U.S.-sponsored peace deal that ended the brutal 1992-95 war between its three main ethnic groups – Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats – by dividing the country into two highly independent entities. The entities — one run by Serbs and the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats – have broad autonomy but are linked by shared national institutions. All countrywide actions require consensus from all three ethnic groups.

The agreement also gave broad powers to the international high representative, the post currently held by Schmidt, including the ability to impose laws and to dismiss officials and civil servants who undermine the country’s fragile post-war ethnic balance.

The Sunday election included races for the three members of the shared Bosnian presidency; parliament deputies at the state, entity and regional levels; and the president of the country’s Serb-run part.

The traditional ruling class was challenged in the election by parties which, despite ideological differences and sometimes clashing agendas, shared the campaign promise to eradicate patronage networks and sanction acts of corruption in government.

Analysts predicted the long-entrenched nationalists who have enriched cronies and ignored the needs of the people were likely to remain dominant after the election despite deeply disappointing their constituents, largely because the sectarian post-war system of governance leaves pragmatic, reform-minded Bosnians with little incentive to vote.

However, contenders vying to replace the nationalists on the country’s tripartite presidency and in the post of the president of its Serb-run part insisted the preliminary results indicated they were wining the vote.

Election turnout on Sunday was 50% or over 2 percentage points down from the 2018 general election.

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