ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published its 108 pages report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.
EHRC’s 29-member team of investigators conducted its probe into the alleged crimes committed following the Tigray Forces’ military offensive and control of several areas in the two regions, beginning July.
The report provides a detailed account of widespread human rights violations against civilians committed by parties in the conflict that pitted the Tigray Forces and allied militia, the OLF Shane, on the one hand and the federal army and allied security forces from Afar and Amhara, on the other.
– extrajudicial killings –
The report says a significant number of civilians have died in the war largely conducted in towns and rural areas with dense civilian populations.
“Without including the extrajudicial killings,” the report says “at least 403 civilians have died and 309 have suffered minor to serious physical injuries as a result of acts of violence in the context of the conflict.”
In parts of Afar and Amhara Regions covered by the investigation, it says “at least 346 civilians have been subjected to unlawful and extra-judicial killing by parties to the conflict – mainly by Tigray Forces”.
OLF Shane also committed targeted killings of government officials and their family members, and civilians they accused of supporting the government in areas which were under their control, the report added.
ENDF, Amhara Special Forces, Fano and other militia also “committed unlawful and extrajudicial killing of and caused physical injuries to civilians they suspected of supporting Tigray Forces or OLF Shane,” it says.
– ‘Widespread GBV’ –
Apart from the extrajudicial killing, it says the Tigray forces “committed widespread, cruel, and systematic sexual and gender-based violence”.
These include, the report says, gang rape against women of different ages-girls and elderly women in parts of Afar and Amhara regions under their control.
“Tigray Forces committed these acts of sexual and gender-based violence to demoralize, dehumanize and punish communities; often indiscriminately and sometimes in a targeted manner,” the report reads.
Their attacks, the investigation team says, were often perpetrated “in a premeditated and cruel manner” including through gang rape, and rape in front of family members of victims/survivors.
“Oftentimes, these acts were committed with the knowledge of military commanders and officials of the Tigray Forces who, despite pleas from communities under their control, failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to stop violations and hold perpetrators to account,” the team says.
– ‘Carefully Organised Pillage’ –
In many areas covered by this investigation, and which were under their control, Tigray Forces carried out widespread and organized pillaging, looting and destruction of properties.
“In many of the areas covered by the investigation, Tigray Forces, with deliberate intent and in a carefully organized manner, pillaged medical equipment, machinery and other technological tools and transported them in vehicles apparently to the Tigray region,” the investigation team says.
A total of 2,409 health facilities including hospitals and health posts have ceased operation as a result of the destruction, damage and pillage they sustained, according to the report.
A total of 1,090 schools were also fully destroyed while 3,220 sustained partial damage in both regions while financial institutions, 18 commercial banks in particular, sustained billions of birr worth loss due to looting.
Private properties were also a subject of looting and destruction.
“In many of the areas covered by the investigation, Tigray Forces have looted day to day consumables such as food items and clothing”, the report says. They have also shot and killed domestic and farm animals.
Breakdown of law and order in the local areas also “resulted in some civilians taking part in the looting”, the report indicates, adding that, in parts of Amhara Region retaken from Tigray Forces, property owned by people of Tigray ethnic origin who fled the areas fearing for their safety, were looted by some residents and some members of government forces.
Call to End hostilities
In its conclusion, the EHRC has stated that the human rights and humanitarian law violations that have been committed in Afar, Amhara and parts of Tigray Region may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Therefore, the commission said, “an impartial and credible criminal investigation consistent with applicable international human rights standards to ensure accountability.”
Ensuring accountability for all violations committed by all parties to the conflict lies primarily with the Government, the Commission said.
Its Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele that “parties to the conflict should without precondition commit to end hostilities to prevent further injury from this over fifteen months long war and find a political resolution to the conflict”.