Global Human Rights Defence

China vs United-States: How to Deal with the Situations in Afghanistan and Ethiopia?
Source: Zhao Lijian’s Twitter.

China expressed its disagreement with the recent decision of the US authorities to impose sanctions on Ethiopia and Afghanistan after the recent outbreak of violence there. 

A spokesman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, both emphasized that by doing so, the US is interfering in the internal affairs of the two countries. Despite the desired political effect, such sanctions could also prevent people in complicated economic situations from having access to financial resources. That, in turn, can further negatively impact their lives.

Conflict in Ethiopia

On November 3, 2020, a civil war started in Tigray, Ethiopia. The opposing forces are the Special Forces of the Tigray Regional Government and the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The Ethiopian Prime Minister appointed in 2018, Abiy Ahmed – who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for solving a long-term territorial clash with Eretria – organized a military offensive to fight the regional forces in Tigray. The decision was a result of months of disputes between the Abiy’s government (the Prosperity Party) and leaders of Tigray’s regional political party (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) over the postponed (due to the Covid-19 pandemic) national elections and the suspended fundings. The fights brought about famine, thousands of civilian deaths, mass rape, and overall devastation in the country.

Taliban in Afghanistan

Since mid-August, the Taliban took over the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul but the group has not been officially recognised by the international government as the country’s legitimate government. Beijing has been trying to gain favour with the Taliban, as it seeks security guarantees involving its significant investments in neighbouring Pakistan.

Since the Taliban took the capital of Afghanistan, there have been significant changes. More than $4 billion in annual development aid for Afghanistan has evaporated. Financial Times reported, and the United Nations has warned that “one in three Afghans do not know where they will get their next meal.” Moreover, the foreign governments have promised three months of $1billion in emergency aid. Yet, Afghanistan has approximately $9 billion in foreign exchange reserves that can be used for emergency spending but which have been frozen by the United States since they are preserved on international accounts.

US’s approach to deal with the situations

The Biden administration has issued a new enforcement order allowing targeted financial sanctions for those found to be responsible for or complicit in escalating the conflict in and around Ethiopia’s Tigray region, obstructing humanitarian aid in the region or undermining democracy or the territory of Ethiopia integrity. In a statement, the White House explicitly notified all parties in the conflict, stressing that sanctions could be applied to those in the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the Tiger People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara government and regional forces. Those sanctions aim at shifting the cost-benefit calculations of the warring parties away from escalating military conflict.

Furthermore, sanctions against the Taliban were in place decades ago by the US and its allies, limiting financial transactions, blocking its assets and restricting international travels for senior members. These sanctions aimed to penalize and restrict the capacity of violence of the rebel group with connections to international terrorism, despite its control over large swaths of Afghanistan. However, now the impacts will reach far beyond its leaders as the Taliban took over almost the whole country. 

China’s response to US sanctions

In a recent press conference, which was held on September 22, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed his concerns and disagreement with President Biden’s decision to impose sanctions on Ethiopia. As Mr. Zhao points out: “[China] opposes a frequent use of sanctions and threats of sanctions to exert pressure or interfere in internal affairs of other countries. […] We believe that the relevant parties in Ethiopia have the wisdom and ability to resolve their internal differences, and sincerely hope that Ethiopia will achieve national reconciliation and restore national peace and stability very soon.”

A similar remark was made by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, during the video conference of the G20 Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Mr. Wang explained that Afghanistan’s “foreign exchange reserves are the national reserves” and must be used by its people to ease the crisis and promote the country’s economic development. He also expressed his disapproval of the US trying to use it as a source of political pressure. The Minister added that instead, “International financial institutions should […] provide financial support to Afghanistan’s poverty reduction, sustainable development, people’s livelihood, and infrastructure projects.”

A more cautious and considered approach needed 

Although the sanctions can be justified in some ways, the international community needs to take a delicate balancing act to avoid humanitarian catastrophes in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Due to the escalating conflicts in those countries, the livelihood for some demographic groups has become more severe. For example, as the United Nations Children’s Fund points out, “1 million Afghan children are at risk of starvation this year”. Therefore, there is a need for wealthy nations to set aside political considerations and provide more humanitarian aid to people in conflict-affected areas.

Online sources:

Anonymous (29 June 2021). “Ethiopia’s Tigray War: The Short, Medium and Long Story”. BBC. Available online at
Anonymous (5 September 2021). “Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict: Thousands Reported Killed in Clashes”. BBC. Available online at
Gavin, Michelle (20 September 2021). “Ethiopia: U.S. Sanctions Threat Attempts to Change the Equation”. Council on Foreign Relations. Available online at
Haqqani, Husain (27 August 2021). “Sanctions on the Taliban will Hurt Afghan Citizens. Here’s How to Fix That”. Washington Post. Available online at
Macias, Amanda (24 September 2021). “Treasury Carves Path for U.S. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan While Upholding Sanctions on Taliban”. CNBC. Available online at
Niewenhuis, Lucas (23 September 2021). “China Opposes U.S. Sanctions on Ethiopia and Afghanistan as Humanitarian Crises Worsen”. SupChina. Available online at
Official statements:
Zhonghua renmin gongheguo waijiaobu 中华人民共和国外交部 [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China] (22 September 2021). “2021 nian 9 yue 22 ri waijiaobu fayanren Zhao Lijian zhuchi lixing jizhehui 2021年9月22日外交部发言人赵立坚主持例行记者会 [The Regular Press Conference of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian on September 22, 2021]. Waijiaobu 外交部 [The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Online]. Available online at
Zhonghua renmin gongheguo waijiaobu 中华人民共和国外交部 [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China] (23 September 2021). “Wang Yi chuxi ershiguo jituan afuhan wenti waizhang shipin huiyi” 王毅出席二十国集团阿富汗问题外长视频会议 [Wang Yi Attends the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Video Conference on Afghanistan]. Waijiaobu 外交部 [The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Online]. Available online at

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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.