ADDIS ABABA – Over a hundred civilians, including people who went to the city to mark the annual Aksum Tsion celebration, were killed by Eritrean soldiers in Aksum city, according to Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
EHRC was able to deploy an investigation team in the city between February 27 to March 5, during which its experts spoke to survivors, 45 families of victims, eyewitnesses, medical personnel, and religious leaders.
In a statement Tuesday, the Commission says the team has also obtained documentary evidence that includes video, audio, and photographs from families of victims.
Accordingly, the preliminary investigation confirms that between November 28 and November 29, 2020, in particular, “grave violations of human rights were committed”.
“In Aksum, over one hundred civilians that included residents, persons displaced from other parts of Tigray, and visitors from other parts of Ethiopia who came to mark the annual Aksum Tsion celebration, were killed by Eritrean soldiers,” the Commission’s statement reads.
Witnesses, residents, and members of victims’ families the EHRC’s team spoke to described the “gruesome killings of victims in the presence of their children, wives, and mothers”.
“These widespread human rights violations committed by the Eritrean soldiers who were present in Aksum city at the time of the incident, are not ordinary crimes, but constitute grave contraventions of applicable international and human rights laws and principles,” EHRC claims.
The commission also says the “intentional attacks against civilians, looting, destruction, and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity.
It “may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes” the statement reads.
This underscores, the Commission says, the urgent need for a comprehensive investigation into the overall human rights situation in the region.
The report also claims the law enforcement measures and actions taken by security forces enforcing a curfew have also resulted in deaths and severe injuries.
It expresses grave concern over such actions and calls for an immediate end to the use of disproportionate measures.
“While members of the military serve their country and people by even paying the ultimate sacrifice those who commit human rights abuses should be held accountable for their actions. It is therefore imperative to assist the joint investigation to this end,” said Daniel Bekele, Chief of EHRC.
Ethiopia has already announced its commitment to a joint investigation by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into human rights violations in Tigray.
Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of EHRC, called it “a step in the right direction”.