Joint United Nations and Ethiopia team for rights: all parties have committed abuses in Tigray
GENEVA / ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 3 (Reuters) – All parties fighting in the war in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia have committed violations that may amount to war crimes, according to a long-awaited joint investigation by United Nations and Ethiopia released Wednesday.
The report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released the day after Ethiopia declared a state of emergency . Tigrayan forces said on Monday they could march on the capital to overthrow the government of Africa’s second most populous nation.
The report covers most of the year-long conflict, waged by Tigrayian forces against the Ethiopian army and its main allies: forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region and soldiers from the neighboring nation of Eritrea.
All parties are accused of torturing and killing civilians, committing gang rapes and making arrests on the basis of ethnicity.
It was not immediately clear whether the report’s findings could form the basis of legal action. Ethiopia and Eritrea are not members of the International Criminal Court, so the Court does not have jurisdiction.
The report recommended a possible international justice mechanism, saying Ethiopia’s investigations were not broad enough, did not always meet international standards and were not always transparent.
The report is based on 269 interviews. Many accounts contain graphic details of the rapes and mutilations committed by Eritrean soldiers on military bases.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report’s content. Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh declined to comment. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda and Amhara regional spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh were not available for comment.
Eritrea has refused to engage with investigators, according to the report, but has denied in the past that its forces have committed rapes, despite extensive documentation, including by Reuters. Ethiopia said some soldiers were on trial for rape and murder. Amhara denied the abuse.
TPLF spokesman Getachew has previously denied that Tigrayian forces have committed abuses, but said some Tigrayan “vigilante” groups may have committed violations.
The 100-page report said Eritrean soldiers killed around 100 civilians in the town of Aksum; whereas Ethiopian soldiers dragged around 70 men from their homes and killed them in three villages in southern Tigray; and that Tigrayan forces had killed approximately 200 Amhara civilians in the town of Mai Kadra, a crime followed by revenge killings of Tigrayans by Amhara.
The report states that this is not an exhaustive list of incidents. Reuters and other news organizations, rights groups and civil society groups have documented numerous other killings of civilians that have not been mentioned.
YEAR OF CONFLICT
The report also accuses Eritrean soldiers of forcing Eritrean refugees living in Tigray to return, in violation of international law.
The report accused all sides of blocking aid at different times and said it could not verify whether starvation was being used as a weapon of war, as previously alleged by the country’s aid chief. United Nations. The UN said the government had “de facto blocked” food aid, a charge the government denied.
The report mentioned that investigators were often hampered in their work, especially in areas controlled by Amhara forces, or unable to reach certain areas due to insecurity. He does not mention that Ethiopia expelled a UN investigator working on the report in September.
The TPLF, which controls most of Tigray, said the report was incomplete as investigators did not visit many areas and did not involve the Tigrayan leadership.
“They kept us in the dark,” Getachew said Tuesday before the full report was released.
The report says Tigrayan leaders were reluctant to engage due to the presence of investigators from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
Among other violations, the report documented allegations that Tigrayan forces fired at civilians sheltering in a church in Adi Hageray town on November 3.
The war began a year ago after regional forces and Tigrayan soldiers from the national army seized control of military bases across Tigray. They said the central government was set to act against Tigray after the region held its own elections despite a government directive delaying them. Read more
The conflict has plunged an estimated 400,000 people in Tigray into starvation, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people in northern Ethiopia to flee their homes.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet accepted an Ethiopian request for a joint investigation in March, saying it was then possible that war crimes were committed in Tigray.
Additional reporting by Maggie Fick and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Jon Boyle, Peter Graff
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