The head of the UN Human Rights Council expressed alarm on Saturday over the recent deadly clashes between Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and called on the authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michel Bachelet said she was “deeply saddened” by the violence that erupted late last month in northern Ethiopia, which reportedly killed at least 30 people and injured more than 100.
The clashes began in the city of Gondar in the Amhara region on April 26, reportedly over a land dispute, and then quickly spread to other regions and Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, she said.
Amhari’s Islamic Affairs Council said the Muslim elder’s funeral had been attacked, describing the scene as a “massacre” of heavily armed “Christian extremists”.
The cemetery where the attack took place is adjacent to the mosque and church and has become the subject of ongoing controversy between Muslims and Orthodox Christians, who are the dominant group in Ethiopia.
“I understand that two mosques were burned and two more were partially destroyed in Gondor,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“During the apparent retaliatory attacks, two Orthodox Christians were burned to death, another was killed and five churches” in the southwest, she said, adding that clashes have taken place in other regions since then.
According to her, in total, police arrested and detained at least 578 people in four cities in connection with the clashes.
“I call on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately initiate and conduct a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into each of these deadly incidents,” Bachelet said.
“The authorities must strive to bring those found guilty,” she said, stressing that “the individual responsibility of the perpetrators is very important to prevent further violence.”
At the same time, “the proceeds must be fully guaranteed” due process and the right to a fair trial in accordance with international human rights law without discrimination. “
The UN human rights chief also called for greater action to reconcile communities in Ethiopia, where Muslims make up about a third of the population.
“In order to prevent further interfaith violence, it is very important to immediately eliminate the root causes of this shocking violence,” she said, calling for “significant involvement of survivors, families and affected communities.”