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UN investigators probing alleged human rights violations by Ethiopia in its northern conflict said Thursday they had been given the green light to visit the capital Addis Ababa but called for wider access.
The UN in December set up a three-member panel of rights experts with a renewable one-year mandate to investigate abuses committed since the conflict broke out in November 2020.
"The commission is alarmed that violations and abuses of international human rights (and) humanitarian and refugee law -- the subject matter of our inquiry -- appear to be perpetrated with impunity even now by various parties to the conflict," the commission's chair, Kaari Betty Murungi, told the council.
"The commission emphasises the responsibility of the government of Ethiopia to bring to an end such violations on its territory and bring those responsible to justice."
Fighting erupted in the Tigray region when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent in troops to topple the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
He said he acted in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
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Untold numbers of people have since been killed in the region, as well as the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.
Millions are also in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, with many in Tigray on the brink of famine and the region still without basic services such as electricity and communications.
After the government announced a "humanitarian truce" in March, aid convoys have slowly made their way to Tigray for the first time since mid-December.
"We are extremely alarmed by ongoing atrocities against civilians, including events reported in the Oromia region," Murungi said.
"Any spread of violence against civilians, fuelled by hate speech and incitement to ethnic-based and gender-based violence, are early warning indicators and a precursor for further atrocity crimes."
The commission, established by the UN Human Rights Council, probes alleged violations by all parties to the conflict. It is also working on guidance on transitional justice and national reconciliation.
The investigators met with Ethiopia's justice minister in May and requested access to Ethiopia to meet alleged victims in conflict-affected areas.
"The Ethiopian government has responded to our request to visit Addis Ababa positively," Murungi said.
"We are hopeful that the consultations in Addis Ababa will result in access for our investigators to sites of violations to be identified, and to survivors, victims and witnesses."
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