‘War crimes possibly committed in Ethiopia’

All sides in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict have violated international human rights, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, a new report states.

Extra-judicial executions, torture, rape, and attacks against refugees and displaced people were documented.

A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office said there could also be evidence of war crimes.

The war broke out on November4,2020.

It started when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against regional forces in northern Tigray region.

Government forces initially routed the rebels, but things changed in June with the Tigrayan fighters making significant territorial gains. They are now reportedly approaching the capital, Addis Ababa.

On Tuesday, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency hours after urging residents of the capital to arm themselves.

The war has created a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of people have been killed, millions displaced and hundreds of thousands in Tigray face famine conditions, according to aid organisations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the conflict had been marked by extreme brutality and called for a lasting ceasefire.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe all parties to the conflict… either directly attacked civilians and civilian objects, such as houses, schools, hospitals, and places of worship, or carried out indiscriminate attacks resulting in civilian casualties and destruction or damage to civilian objects,” the report states.

Unlawful or extrajudicial killings and executions have also been recorded.

The report details how a Tigrayan youth group known as Samri killed more than 200 ethnic Amhara civilians in Mai Kadra in November last year. Revenge killings were then committed against ethnic Tigrayans in the same town.

The Eritrean army has joined the conflict fighting alongside the Ethiopian government forces. Eritrean soldiers killed more than 100 civilians in Aksum in central Tigray later in November 2020, the report says.

“War crimes may have been committed since there are reasonable grounds to believe that persons taking no direct part in hostilities were wilfully killed by parties to the conflict,” the report says.

It also cites cases of sexual violence including gang rape committed by both sides and targeting women, men, girls and boys. -BBC

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