Ethiopia detains 16 UN staff members in Addis Ababa

AP , Tuesday 9 Nov 2021

The United Nations says at least 16 of its local staff members have been detained in Ethiopia's capital days after the government declared a state of emergency as the country's yearlong war escalates.

Abiy Ahmed
File Photo: PM Abiy Ahmed gives a press conference at the PM s office in the capital, Addis Ababa, on August 01, 2019. AFP

All the detained staffers are ethnic Tigrayan, a humanitarian worker said on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

``They are being detained in facilities against their will,'' U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. He said another six staff members had been detained but then were released, and a number of dependents were also detained.

The U.N. said it was given no reason for the detentions, but ethnic Tigrayans, including lawyers, have reported widespread detentions in Addis Ababa since the state of emergency was declared, saying people are being picked up on the basis of their ethnicity alone.

Government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to questions about the detentions. The government has said it is detaining people suspected of supporting the rival Tigray forces who have been fighting Ethiopia's government for the past year.

Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said security colleagues have visited those detained and the U.N. has asked Ethiopia's foreign ministry for their immediate release.

The government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in a statement this week noted with concern that the new wave of arrests ``appeared to be based on ethnicity'' and included older adults and mothers with children. It was confirmed that the people detained included priests, monks and other clergy in the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Urgent diplomatic efforts continue as African Union and United States envoys encourage an immediate cease-fire by Ethiopia's government and the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government before current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power.

Thousands of people have been killed in the yearlong war, thousands detained and millions displaced.

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