April 30, 2011

U.S. Ignores Ethiopia’s War Crimes

NAIROBI, Kenya — The United States and other Western governments are ignoring clear evidence of war crimes by Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally that launched a military crackdown on rebels last year, a human rights group said Thursday.

Separately, a U.S.-based science group said satellite images confirm reports that villages have been destroyed in the country’s Ogaden region.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said America’s relationship with Ethiopia means an alliance with a country repeatedly accused of violating human and political rights. In recent years, Ethiopia has become a U.S. partner in the fight against al-Qaida, which has been trying to sink roots in the Horn of Africa.“The United States is being willfully blind,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “Because Ethiopia is viewed as a key ally in the counterterrorism efforts, they are perhaps prepared to look the other way at abuses committed by Ethiopian soldiers.”

In a 130-page report, Human Rights Watch said Ethiopian troops have beaten and strangled civilians, staged public executions and burned villages during a year-old campaign against rebels in the Ogaden, an arid stretch of land on the border with Somalia. The group said the allegations were based on more than 100 eyewitness accounts. The country in the Horn of Africa is an ally in President Bush’s fight against terrorism.

U.S. says it’s not ignoring war crimes reports
A State Department spokesman on Thursday dismissed claims that the U.S. is minimizing or even ignoring war crimes by the Ethiopians. Gonzalo Gallegos said officials “strongly reject” Human Rights Watch’s allegations.

The report said that since early 2007, when Ogaden rebels attacked a Chinese oil site, “the Ethiopian military’s killings, torture and rape of civilians have driven thousands of people from the region, while trade restriction and limited relief aid are exacerbating the humanitarian situation.”

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