NAIROBI, Kenya – Tigrayan rebels fighting the Ethiopian government carried out dozens of killings of civilians in two cities they controlled in August and September, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Friday, listing alleged violations by forces. added to the list. The civil war in Ethiopia started 14 months ago.
The rights group said the militants “killed a total of 49 people” between August 31 and September 9 in the northern village of Chenna in Amhara and the town of Kobo.
For five days in Chenna, Tigrayan rebels killed 26 civilians in 15 separate incidents before leaving the village on Sept. 4, the report said. Among those killed were residents who refused to slaughter livestock for farmers, grandparents and warriors, the report said.
Residents also told Human Rights Watch that the rebels had been forced to stay in their homes with Tigrayan forces, even though they had fired and retaliated at Ethiopian troops in nearby hills. The human rights group said such actions could be a “human shield” seen as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
In Kobo, rebels killed 23 people, including returning farmers and men vacationing at a public association, the report said.
The report adds that since the beginning of the conflict in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia in November 2020, the number of violations committed by the warring parties has increased. The Ethiopian defense forces and their Eritrean counterparts, along with the Amhara regional forces and Amhara militants, have been accused of committing all the crimes. offenses, including extrajudicial killings, sexual assault, and attacks on refugees.
Getachyu Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has taken control of the rebels, did not immediately respond to questions about recent violations.
Access to much of northern Ethiopia has been difficult since the conflict began, and the disruption has made it difficult to verify information or contact victims and their families. Human Rights Watch’s latest report is based on remote interviews with 36 people, as well as documents obtained.
On Friday, Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up an investigative body to investigate crimes committed by civilians on both sides.
“Unfortunately, the irregularities we’ve identified by all parties to the conflict are probably just the tip of the iceberg,” said Gerry Simpson, the law firm’s deputy director for crisis and conflict, in a telephone interview in Geneva.
The report comes a month after Amnesty International published a report in August accusing Tigrayan forces of raping women in Nifas Mevcha, Amhara province, looting them with guns and looting health facilities.
Tigrayan forces have been victorious on the battlefield against government forces since June, recapturing major cities and expanding the war in neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.
In late October, they captured two cities on an important highway connecting the landlocked state with neighboring Djibouti ports and began marching towards the capital, Addis Ababa. This prompted Prime Minister Abi Ahmad to declare a state of emergency and then go to the front line to command the troops.
According to the government, Tigrayan forces have since suffered casualties on the battlefield, including in the strategic cities of Dessi and Kombolcha.
Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman Billen Seyum on Tuesday accused the rebels of destroying hospitals, hotels and commercial banks, and looting an airport in the historic city of Lalibela, which they seized in August but lost earlier this month.
Spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Stefan Dujarric, said on Wednesday that the World Food Program had stopped distributing food in Dessi and Kombolcha because staff had been detained at gunpoint and food had been looted.
Understand the conflict in Ethiopia
A year of war. On November 4, 2020, Prime Minister Abi Ahmad launched a military campaign in the northern province of Tigray in hopes of defeating his most formidable political enemy, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
“The theft of small amounts of food has in recent days led to mass looting of warehouses across Kombolcha by elements of the Tigranian forces and some members of the local population,” Mr Dujarric told a news briefing.
The United Nations estimates that looting of food supplies in Ethiopia, where at least 9.4 million people suffer from food insecurity, threatens to worsen malnutrition.
Mr Dujarric said the number of aid trucks arriving in the Tigray regional capital, Meckelle, on Thursday fell to 44 on December 1-7, down from 157 a week earlier, and continues to face difficulties due to the conflict. The United Nations has said at least 100 food trucks a day should come to Tigray to alleviate the hunger crisis.
After great success on the battlefield, Mr. Abiy returned to the capital, his office said this week. But his government continues to face criticism for waging a war, continuing an arrest campaign targeting ethnic Tigrayans, and for its treatment of the media.
This week, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Ethiopia as the third largest prison for journalists in Africa, after Egypt and Eritrea.
Mutoki Mumo, the committee’s African representative in the Sahara, said the hostility in the Ethiopian media had intensified since the start of the war. He said officials had arrested journalists without formal charges and using the language and terms used in the stories, while many journalists had been brutally harassed on the internet to cover them.
“The situation remains really dire,” Ms. Mumo said in an interview.
Rick Gladstone Prepared a report from New York.