U.S. Sanctions Eritrea Military Chief for Abuses in Ethiopia
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Eritrean army’s chief of staff for his involvement in the conflict in neighboring Ethiopia.
General Filipos Woldeyohannes’s assets will be frozen because he was “a leader or official of an entity that is engaged in serious human rights abuse,” the Treasury said in a statement. Eritrea denied the allegations calling it “utterly baseless” and “blackmail directed against it,” according to the nation’s Ministry of Information.
The U.S. is trying to stem violence that’s seen Ethiopia’s federal troops and militia battling dissidents from the northern Tigray region. Eritrea sided with Ethiopia last year, shelling the area and sending in troops -- who’ve been accused of perpetrating some of the worst atrocities recorded since fighting erupted in November.
The conflict has displaced millions of people from the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions and placed more than 5 million in need of food assistance. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week called for hostilities to end and for peace talks to begin.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has indicated plans for a national dialog to ease tensions, but hasn’t said if the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front will participate.
In May, the U.S. imposed visa restrictions and economic sanctions on government and military officials from Ethiopia, and several others from Eritrea.
“The Treasury Department will continue to take action against those involved in serious human rights abuse around the world, including in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where such acts further exacerbate the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki said on Monday.
In February, Amnesty International accused Eritrean troops of massacring hundreds of unarmed civilians in the northern Ethiopian town of Axum in November.
Abiy, whose party won this year’s elections, won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending a long-running conflict with Eritrea. The prime minister earlier this month urged all eligible Ethiopians to join the armed forces and militia to repel the Tigray forces. His call came after his troops incurred heavy losses, forcing them to retreat. The dissidents have since advanced deep into Afar and Amhara.
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