GENEVA (AP) — Ethiopia’s annual war in the Tigre region has seen abuses marked by “extreme brutality” by all sides, which could be war crimes and crimes against humanity, the UN human rights chief said on Wednesday, adding “a large number of Violations in “” are linked to Ethiopian forces and those of neighboring Eritrea.
The conflict that claimed thousands of lives began in November 2020 following a political fallout between the long-dominated Tigre forces over the national government and the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethnic tigresses across the country have reported arbitrary detentions, while civilians in the Tigre have described gang rapes, human-caused famines and mass expulsions.
The investigation, a rare collaboration by the United Nations Human Rights Office with the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, was hampered by threats and sanctions from the authorities, and did not visit some of the worst-affected places of the war.
The United Nations told The Associated Press that cooperation was necessary for his team to gain access to a troubled area where Ethiopian officials have largely prevented journalists, rights groups and other observers from entering.
The report was released a day before the first anniversary of the start of the war and as Africa’s second most populous country enters a new state of emergency, rival Tigre forces threaten the capital, Addis Ababa.
Read more: Amnesty International reports mass rape in Tigre
The joint investigation covered events until the end of June, when Tigre forces reclaimed most of their territory, but due to security and other constraints, it failed to visit some of the war’s deadliest sites, including the city of Axum. Stayed. In particular, the report said, roadblocks include the Ethiopian government’s failure to release purchased satellite phones for investigations – important equipment such as phones and internet service has been cut off in Tigre.
The report said that in western Tigre, claimed by forces from the neighboring Amhara region, “it was clear that Tigreyan had abandoned most of the area, as it was difficult to find Tigreyan to interview.”
The investigation breaks some new ground and in general confirms the abuses described by witnesses throughout the war. But it gives little sense of scale, saying only that the more than 1,300 rapes reported to authorities are likely to be much lower than the actual number.
Despite the report’s shortcomings, Abiy’s office said in a statement that it “founded the genocide claim as clearly false and lacking any factual basis.” The head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, said the investigation did not identify genocide violations.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet acknowledged that investigators did not provide enough evidence to mark “disturbing suggestions of ethnically motivated violence” as a sign of possible genocide, but said that as such Further investigation into the allegations is necessary.
The Prime Minister’s statement noted “serious objections” to the report, but claimed it lays “horrendous allegations to rest”. And it acknowledged the need to “redouble our efforts” to hold criminals accountable. A high level task force will be constituted, it said.
Among the findings of the investigation: Several Ethiopian military camps were used to torture captured Tigre forces or civilians suspected of supporting them. Others were detained in “secret places” and military camps across the country, in many cases being detained arbitrarily. Tigre forces detained and in some cases tortured some ethnic Amhara civilians suspected of supporting the military in the western Tigre during the early days of the war.
“The Tigre conflict has been marked by extreme brutality. The seriousness and severity of the violations and abuses that we have documented underscore the need to hold criminals accountable,” Bachelet said. He added that reports of abuses such as brief executions in the Tigre continue.
And yet the report gives little indication that Eritrean soldiers were responsible for many of the atrocities as alleged by witnesses. By March, Abiy denied that they were even in the country.
Bachelet told reporters that although the report did not explicitly mention that Ethiopian and Eritrean forces were responsible for most of the violations, “I would say that the vast majority of human rights violations are linked to the Ethiopian and Eritrean Defense Forces.” He refused the investigation under pressure from the government.
The Ethiopian government imposed a blockade on Tigre as Tigre forces regained control in June, cutting off almost all access to commercial goods and humanitarian aid. This was followed by widespread looting and destruction of food and crops, which “have had serious socioeconomic impacts on the civilian population,” the report said. Besides, some camps of displaced people did not get ration for months.
The investigation, however, “could not confirm the intentional or intentional refusal of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Tigre or the use of starvation as a weapon of war.” It demanded further investigation.
In a separate statement on events since the investigation, Bachelet expressed deep concern over the state of emergency the Ethiopian government imposed on Tuesday with “broad powers” of detention and military recruitment.
She also said her office has received reports in recent months of a “highly organized system” of detaining thousands of tigresses in the Western Tigre, which now includes “the general civilian population”.
Tigre forces have moved into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions since June, and Bachelet noted a growing number of allegations of abuse against them, including rape.
The joint investigation, based on more than 260 interviews with victims and witnesses, said it had not received any response from the Eritrean government or the Amhara regional authorities. Eritrea’s information minister tweeted on Wednesday that Eritrea rejects the credibility of the report.
The Tigre Foreign Affairs Office in a statement called the EHRC’s involvement an “insult to the notion of fairness” and said the report was “full of problems”. The report acknowledged that at times the presence of EHRC staff interrupted interviews.
The investigation stated that the Ethiopian government should “consider” setting up a court to ensure accountability, and expressed concern that “the investigations conducted by Ethiopian national institutions match the scope and breadth of the violations it has identified”. doesn’t eat.”
“We don’t have enough transparency,” Bachelet said.