Crime & Justice

‘Campaign of ethnic cleansing’ carried out in Tigray, rights groups say

Addis Ababa, Apr 6 (EFE).- The security forces of the northern Ethiopian region of Amhara and civilian authorities have carried out a “campaign of ethnic cleansing” in neighboring Tigray with abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday in a new report.

In addition, the authorities in Western Tigray and their allies also committed massacres and other war crimes against Amhara civilians, the two human rights organizations said.

Since the civil war in Tigray began in November 2020, “Amhara officials and security forces have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in Western Tigray from their homes,” said HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

The organizations carried out 427 interviews and research included medical and forensic reports, satellite images, videos and photographs.

“The organizations found that since November 2020 in Western Tigray, civilian authorities, and Amhara regional security forces, with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces, committed numerous grave abuses as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Tigrayan civilian population that amount to crimes against humanity as well as war crimes,” the report said.

Both the Ethiopian federal forces and the Ahmara authorities deny the accusations.

The two NGOs documented abuses against Tigrayans that include threats, extrajudicial executions, rapes, abductions, sexual slavery, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, torture, looting, forced displacement, the denial of humanitarian assistance, ethnic-based slurs and the denial of language.

The report cited a 27-year-old Tigrayan woman who said she had been raped by security forces, who told her: “You Tigrayans should disappear from the land west of [the Tekeze River]. You are evil and we are purifying your blood.”

Tens of thousands of Tigrayans were expelled or fled by March 2021, and hundreds of thousands in Western Tigray have been displaced from their homes through threats, intimidation, and a campaign of violence and forcible removal, it said.

Amnesty and HRW believe that thousands of Tigrayans are still being held in “life-threatening” conditions.

However, they stress, the central government has restricted access and independent scrutiny of the region, largely hiding many of these human rights abuses.

“The response of Ethiopia’s international and regional partners has failed to reflect the gravity of the crimes that continue to unfold in Western Tigray,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General at Amnesty International.

The organizations demanded that the Ethiopian government guarantee immediate and sustained access for humanitarian agencies in Tigray, release all those arbitrarily detained, and investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuses.

In addition, they called for an agreement between the parties to the armed conflict that should include “the deployment of an (African Union)-led international peacekeeping force to the Western Tigray Zone to ensure the protection of all communities from abuses.”

Western Tigray Zone is a fertile area that, two weeks after the outbreak of the conflict in 2020, fell under the control of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and allied forces and militias from the Amhara region.

The civil war began on Nov. 4, 2020, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that ruled the region for almost three decades, in response to an attack on a federal military base and after an escalation of political feuding between the two.

According to the United Nations, some 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Tigray and the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions.

In addition, thousands of people have died and some 2 million have had to flee their homes due to the violence.

On Mar. 24, the Ethiopian government declared an “indefinite humanitarian truce,” putting an end to a “de facto blockade” that Tigray had suffered for months, according to the UN.

The TPLF, for its part, later announced a cessation of hostilities subject to compliance with that truce.

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