Atrocity Alert #320: Ethiopia, Cameroon and Myanmar (Burma)


AIR STRIKES AND DRONES KILL DOZENS OF CIVILIANS IN ETHIOPIA’S NORTHERN TIGRAY REGION

Dozens of civilians have been killed in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region as airstrikes reportedly targeted civilian areas in the capital, Mekelle, and towns across the region in recent weeks. On September 27, at least five civilians were killed and 16 others injured in a reported airstrike on the town of Adi Daero in northwestern Tigray. On September 14, two drone strikes targeted Mekelle, killing at least 10 civilians and hitting and injuring first responders as they tended to the injured, according to local hospitals.

The deadly airstrikes are the latest to target civilian areas since the resumption of conflict in Tigray on August 24. While the Ethiopian federal government claims to have targeted only combatants and military objectives, aid workers have claimed the opposite. Hostilities have prevented much-needed humanitarian aid from entering Tigray, putting the 5.2 million people in need of assistance at increased risk of starvation and starvation.

Attacks on Tigrayans by neighboring Eritrean forces have also heightened the risk of atrocities. Several UN reports and investigations by international human rights groups have previously accused Eritrean forces of atrocities throughout their involvement in the war in northern Ethiopia, including gang rapes and other sexual violence, the targeting of refugees, refugee camps and humanitarian aid, as well as indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

On October 5, the African Union announced that the federal government had accepted an invitation to peace talks scheduled for this weekend and is awaiting a response from Tigray representatives. In mid-September, Tigrayan authorities said they were ready to engage in negotiations to ensure that “Ethiopians in general and Tigrayans in particular no longer hear the sound of gunfire and the blockade of essential services and humanitarian aid”.

Meanwhile, in its first report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) found that since the start of the conflict in November 2020, all sides committed war crimes, including ethnically motivated attacks against civilians. , rape and sexual violence and destruction of civilian infrastructure. ICHREE has determined that the federal government’s blocking of humanitarian aid from the Tigray region amounts to crimes against humanity. Due to time and funding constraints, ICHREE has highlighted other areas that merit further investigation, including airstrikes, large-scale killings in Tigray and Oromia regions, the situation in the Afar region and arbitrary detentions, among others.

This week, the HRC will decide on a resolution to renew the mandate of ICHREE. Savita Pawnday, Executive Director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said: “ICHREE is the only internationally mandated body investigating past and ongoing atrocities in northern Ethiopia, giving hope victims that one day they will be able to assert their rights. to justice and reparation. We implore HRC members to renew ICHREE’s important mandate and ensure full funding of its budget.

THOUSANDS PROTEST FOR PEACE IN CAMEROON IN OCTOBER

In recent days, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, to call for a peaceful solution to the armed conflict that began six years ago this month in the English-speaking regions. The daily marches began on Friday, September 30 and continued through Tuesday, with protesters drawing attention to violations and abuses suffered by populations, including killings, kidnappings and rapes, as the conflict escalates. continues in the northwest and southwest regions.

Protest marches are typical at this time of year, as October marks several important anniversaries. Six years ago, on October 11, lawyers, students and teachers in Cameroon began protesting their cultural marginalization by the French-speaking dominated government, leading to a violent crackdown by security forces. A year later, Anglophone separatists proclaimed independence and declared a new state of “Ambazonia” in the North West and South West regions. Since then, armed separatists and Cameroonian security forces have continued to clash, resulting in widespread abuses against the civilian population by both sides to the conflict. More than 6,000 people have been killed since 2016.

This month also marks the third anniversary since President Paul Biya launched a national dialogue aimed at finding solutions to the conflict. Although the Cameroonian government has described the dialogue as a success, the situation in the English-speaking regions has further deteriorated. Over the past year, armed separatists have grown increasingly violent, killing, kidnapping and terrorizing populations while steadily asserting control over large parts of the English-speaking regions. Security forces continued to carry out extrajudicial killings and widespread sexual and gender-based violence, burn down English-speaking villages, and subject people suspected of separatist links to arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment.

Despite the continued escalation of the conflict and the increased risk of atrocities, the government of Cameroon – as well as the international community – have been unable or unwilling to take effective action. The government continues to deny the gravity of the crisis and has failed to address the root causes of the conflict or provide the political means to resolve it. Juliette Paauwe, Cameroonian expert at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said: “What started as a political crisis has become a complex humanitarian and human rights emergency, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, including women and children. the children. The conflict warrants concerted efforts by the Cameroonian government and the international community to prevent further deterioration. The African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council should urgently help facilitate a ceasefire and inclusive dialogue between the government and separatist groups, mediated by an actor neutral in neutral territory.

NEW REPORT FINDS FACEBOOK ‘SIGNIFICANTLY CONTRIBUTED’ TO ROHINGYA GENOCIDE

According to a new report from Amnesty International, Facebook’s systems “substantially contributed” to atrocities, including genocide, committed by the Myanmar (Burma) military against the minority Rohingya population in 2017. including speeches hate speech and misinformation that incite violence, hatred and discrimination. As early as 2012, about five years before the army launched “demining operations” against the Rohingya, which were characterized by indiscriminate killings, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual violence and forced displacement.

Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “In the months and years leading up to the atrocities, Facebook’s algorithms escalated a storm of hatred against the Rohingya, which contributed to the violence. in the real world… While the Myanmar army was committing crimes against humanity. against the Rohingya, Meta took advantage of the hate echo chamber created by his hateful algorithms.

According to the report, Meta’s responsibility extends beyond passivity in the area of ​​commission. Meta admitted its negligence and took several steps to combat hate speech on the platform, including banning the Myanmar military from Facebook and creating a team of Myanmar speakers to moderate content. Despite these measures, the company must strengthen its efforts to combat the spread of hate speech, disinformation and misinformation. A March 2022 investigation by advocacy group Global Witness found that Facebook continued to endorse ads containing hate speech inciting violence against Rohingya populations.

In 2018, the UN’s Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar noted that Facebook had played a “determining role” in fueling atrocities against the Rohingya in a country where “Facebook is the internet”. In December 2021, a group of Rohingya refugees in the US and UK sued Facebook for its role in failing to prevent the spread of hate speech, exacerbating violence against Rohingya. At the time, a spokesperson for Meta said the company was “appalled by the crimes committed against the Rohingya people”.

Liam Scott, Myanmar expert at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said: “Amnesty’s new report highlights the significant role that hate speech and online disinformation play in the commission of atrocity crimes. As Amnesty recommended in the report, Meta must provide reparations to all those who have suffered violence in Myanmar as a result of the company’s failure. Additionally, Meta and other Big Tech companies have an obligation to uphold their human rights responsibilities and should take concrete steps to address their culpability in committing atrocities.

Comments are closed.