UN denounces ‘shocking’ clashes between Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “deeply distressed” by the violence that erupted late last month in northern Ethiopia.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “deeply distressed” by the violence that erupted late last month in northern Ethiopia.

The UN human rights chief expressed concern on May 7 at the recent deadly clashes between Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and called on the authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “deeply distressed” by violence that erupted late last month in northern Ethiopia, killing at least 30 people and injuring over 100 others.

“The clashes began in the city of Gondar, in the Amhara region, on April 26, apparently linked to a land dispute, before quickly spreading to other regions and to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. “, she said.

The Amhara Islamic Affairs Council said the funeral of a Muslim elder was raided, describing the scene as a “massacre” by heavily armed “Christian extremists”.

The cemetery where the attack occurred is adjacent to a mosque and a church and is the subject of an ongoing conflict between Muslims and Orthodox Christians, who are the dominant group in Ethiopia. “I understand that two mosques were burnt down and two others partially destroyed in Gondar,” Ms Bachelet said in her statement.

“In the apparent retaliatory attacks that followed, two Orthodox Christian men were reportedly burned to death, another man massacred and five churches burned” in the south-west of the country,” she said, adding that other regions had since experienced clashes.

“In total, police are believed to have arrested and detained at least 578 people in at least four towns in connection with the clashes,” she said.

“I call on the Ethiopian authorities to promptly open and conduct thorough, independent and transparent investigations into each of these deadly incidents,” Bachelet said.

Authorities should work to “ensure that those found responsible are held accountable”, she said, stressing that “individual accountability of perpetrators is key to preventing further violence”. At the same time, “those arrested must fully benefit from their rights to due process and a fair trial in accordance with international human rights law, without discrimination”.

The UN rights chief also called for broader action to reconcile communities in Ethiopia, where Muslims make up around a third of the population.

“To prevent further interfaith violence, it is crucial that the underlying causes of this shocking violence are promptly addressed,” she said, calling for “meaningful participation from survivors, families and affected communities.”

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