At least 16 United Nations staff and dependents have been detained in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, amid reports of widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans.
U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
"We are, of course, actively working with the government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release."
But he declined to answer a question on the ethnicity of those detained.
"These are United Nations staff members. They're Ethiopians. They are U.N. staff members, and we would like to see them released, regardless of whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards."
The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday it had received many reports of arrests of Tigrayans in the capital, including elders and mothers with children.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday said the reports are “concerning.”
"We clearly condemned the previous expulsion of U.N. officials from Ethiopia, and if confirmed, we would similarly condemn arrests of U.N. staff members based on ethnicity.”
Police have denied making ethnically motivated arrests, saying they are only targeting supporters of the Tigray rebels fighting the central government. The year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia between the government and Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front – TPLF- has intensified in recent weeks … as Tigrayan forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital.
Ethiopia declared a state of emergency last week that 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.