USA to freeze Ethiopian bank and airline assets and allow victims of genocide to sue for recovery

Tens of thousands of victims in Tigray have been killed, abused, displaced, and starved

The United States State Department is growing impatient with the lack of action of the Ethiopian government in stopping the war against Tigray and other rebel groups. The World Politics Review reports the heavy sanctions are being considered against two huge Ethiopian government businesses with hundreds of millions of US dollar assets who they say have contributed to the violations of human rights, sexual atrocities, killing of innocents, and displacements of millions of Ethiopian.

Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline, is one of the major sources of foreign currency to the government of Ethiopia. As of October 2020 it reported a yearly profit of $ 3.3 billion. with much of that coming from flights to and from the United States and Europe. There are considerable deposits of foreign currency and US and allied countries banks which could be frozen.  Additionally stopping Ethiopians airlines flights to US and allied countries would devastate its revenue. Like most airlines Ethiopian Airlines carries large loans on its aircraft which could default if the business is shutdown. 

Ethiopian Commerce Bank, owned by the Federal government of Ethiopia, is the largest bank of the country. Assets exceed 60% of all deposits, loans, and foreign currency holdings in the country. In part because of the instability of the birr and the safety of deposits in the USA the Ethiopian Commerce Banks maintains millions in deposit with the New York Federal Reserve which would be frozen.

Von Batten-Montague-York, L.C., a US based policy and advocacy group, announced that is likely that US Federal courts will begin to allow Tigray citizens and others who have been the victims of human rights abuses to begin lawsuits against assets of Ethiopia and perhaps Eritrea. This is allowed under a Federal law called the Alien Tort Statue. According to the Cornell Law School information “The Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”; also known as the Alien Tort Claims Act) refers to 28 U.S.C. § 1350, granting jurisdiction to federal district courts “of all causes where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nation or of a treaty of the United States.” Broadly speaking, it serves as a statutory instrument for gaining universal jurisdiction over violations of international law”. This law has been in existence since 1789.