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Did the European Union sanction the Eritrean official due to human rights abuses in Tigray?

Avatar: Hagos Gebreamlak
Hagos GebreamlakApril 7, 2021
HAQCHECKFact checking
Did the European Union sanction the Eritrean official due to human rights abuses in Tigray?

On 22 March 2021, a Facebook post by the name of Andinet Zeleke Bekele claimed that the European Union (EU) has sanctioned higher Eritrean officials due to human rights violations during the ongoing armed conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray regional state. The text written in Amharic reads “... it was reported that the sanction has been imposed on these higher officials and institutions because of serious violations of human rights and abuses...” However, HaqCheck has interrogated the claim and confirmed that the EU sanctioned the Eritrean official, along with other countries' officials for 'domestic human rights violations, not for claimed violations in other countries. Therefore, HaqCheck has rated the post FALSE due to inaccurate information.

Since the war broke out in Tigray between the federal government and a Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF)-loyal forces, there have been many claims and reports that the Eritrean army has joined the military operation supporting the Ethiopian federal government’s forces. 

The Ethiopian government has repeatedly denied the involvement of Eritrean forces in the ongoing armed conflict in Tigray. Ambassador Dina Mufti, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said in a press briefing on 20 January 2021 that the Eritrean troops’ deployment to the border areas is expected to protect their borders as the TPLF-led forces had been firing rockets to Eritrea to regionalize the conflict.

Despite the denial, many third parties had claimed that Eritrean forces were in Tigray fighting against the pro-TPLF forces. Amnesty International further came out with a report of civilians mass-killing in the city of Axum by Eritrean troops.

The United States State Department has been calling for the ‘immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces’ from Tigray. On 05 February, the US Embassy in Asmera, Eritrea, stated that it had asked the Eritrean government to withdraw its forces from Tigray. However, Eritrea denied the Eritrean army’s involvement in the Tigray armed crisis stating the US embassy’s statement in Asmera unwarranted and grounded on false and presumptive allegations.

On 18 March 2021, the US State Department issued a press statement by Antonio Blinken, US state secretary,  and called for immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray.

Recently, Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.), Ethiopian Prime Minister has admitted that Eritrean soldiers entered Tigray. He arrived in Asmara and upon his return home said that the Eritrean government agreed to pull out its soldiers from the Ethiopian borders. Last week,  the Group 7 countries called for a swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. Ethiopia said last Saturday that Eritrean troops have already started to evacuate.

However, Eritrea has confirmed neither the involvement and entrance of its troops to Tigray nor the troops withdrawal from the border in Ethiopia.

Amid this situation, the European Union has imposed a sanction travel ban and asset freeze on Major General Abraha Kassa, head of the Eritrean National Security Office for alleged serious human rights violations in Eritrea, in particular arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture committed by the Office’s agents.

Thus, the claim that the Eritrean higher officer is sanctioned due to human rights abuses in other countries is FALSE. It is due to alleged domestic human rights violations and other alleged crimes. Therefore, HaqCheck has rated the post “FALSE” due to inaccurate information.

Fact Checked by: Hagos Gebreamlak

Edited by: Eden Tafese

The following article is part of HaqCheck, Addis Zeybe’s multilingual fact-checking initiative, which is run by its R&D Department.

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A PIECE BYHagos Gebreamlak

Hagos has a BA degree in Political Science and International Relations from Addis Ababa University. He worked for Addis Fortune (Independent News & Media Plc) as a reporter. Hagos is currently working as a fact-checker at Addis Zeybe.