Sixteen Ethiopian nationals working for the United Nations have been detained after a roundup by authorities while six others have been released.
“We are of course actively working with the government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
“There has been, as far as I know, no explanation given to us on why these staff members are detained,” he said.
The detentions come amid a crackdown in Addis Ababa that rights groups say has targeted ethnic Tigrayans amid major advances in a year-old war with Tigrayan and Oromo rebels.
State of emergency
The year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia between the government and Tigrayan rebels loyal to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has intensified in recent weeks.
The TPLF and its allies have threatened to march on the capital.
Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on November 2.
That proclamation permits the government to arbitrarily arrest, without a court order, anyone suspected of collaborating with a terrorist group.
Parliament designated the TPLF as a terrorist group earlier this year.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Foreign Affairs Ministry official Dina Mufti did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“We are following the arrests of hundreds of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa,” Daniel Bekele, head of the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said on Tuesday.
Addis Ababa police spokesperson said on Monday that the police are only arresting “followers” of the TPLF.
“So this is not ethnically motivated at all.”