On 24 June 2021, three Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff members were killed in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. MSF has searched for answers to why they were killed and by whom ever since. Paula Gil, the president of MSF Spain, issues the following statement, one year on.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic loss of three of our colleagues, María Hernández Matas, Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael and Yohannes Halefom Reda, who were killed while providing lifesaving support to people in the war-torn area of Tigray in Ethiopia.
We miss them terribly and we continue to mourn them as friends and colleagues. Knowing that they were intentionally killed, and that no one has yet claimed responsibility for this heinous attack on three humanitarian workers, only reinforces our outrage, sadness and resolve to continue our search for the truth.
Over the past 12 months we have engaged with various representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). We have shared with them the preliminary findings of our own internal review of the incident, and we have asked them for clarifications about the presence and engagement of their armed forces at the time and in the precise location of the incident.
While we have been assured that an investigation is being carried out by the FDRE, one year on from the killing of María, Yohannes and Tedros, we still do not have a clear time frame on when preliminary results will be shared or when the investigation is likely to be completed. We continue to ask for and expect an official narrative to shed light on what happened that day. We are distraught that the families, our staff and supporters still don’t have answers to key questions about these killings: who were the perpetrators and what was their motivation?
We mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of our colleagues during a time of increasing humanitarian needs in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia. Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need for medical humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia. After almost 20 months of conflict and rising food insecurity and malnutrition, we are acutely aware of how dire the situation is for people in Tigray.
It is our genuine and most heartfelt desire to work with people in Ethiopia, and do as much as we can to save lives and provide much-needed medical care. However, we cannot do that in all parts of the country without the necessary security assurances to allow us to operate safely. These assurances will not be met until we know what happened to our colleagues and there is an acknowledgment of responsibility from responsible parties.
María, Yohannes and Tedros were brutally and intentionally killed while providing vital assistance to people in Ethiopia on 24 June 2021. Someone took their lives purposefully with the knowledge that they were humanitarian workers. If there is no accountability for such an egregious attack on humanitarian workers, it will set a dangerous precedent, both in Ethiopia and around the world, where humanitarian workers are striving to serve those most in need.
The refusal by the authorities to offer a respectful and honest account of what happened that day adds unnecessary pain to the immense grief of María’s, Yohannes’ and Tedros’ close relatives, friends and colleagues. We reaffirm our commitment to honour their memory, today and always. We will never forget them and their commitment to improve people’s lives. The passing of time will not deter us. We will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of the truth of what happened to them.