UN rights chief condemns ‘extreme brutality’ of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet slammed the extreme brutality characterizing the conflict, following the release of a joint UN-Ethiopian report that warns of possible “crimes against humanity” by all sides.

“The Tigray conflict has been marked by extreme brutality,” Miss Bachelet said in a statement, adding that “the gravity and seriousness of the violations and abuses we have documented underscore the need to hold perpetrators accountable on all sides.”

Her comments came after a joint investigation by her office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into abuses committed by all sides since the Tigray conflict exploded a year ago.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the northern Tigray region on November 3 last year, to detain and disarm the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, in response, he said, to the group’s attacks on army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had regrouped and retaken most of Tigray.

And Wednesday’s report came after Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighborhoods Tuesday amid fears Tigrayan rebels were heading for the capital.

The widely anticipated joint report, which covers the period from November 3, 2020 through June, when the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral cease-fire, found evidence of “serious abuses and violations” by all sides in the conflict.

It pointed to extra-judicial executions, torture and sexual violence among other abuses, and said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that a number of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

“This report presents an opportunity for all parties to acknowledge responsibility and commit to concrete measures on accountability, redress for victims and the search for a sustainable solution to end the suffering of millions,” EHRC head Daniel Bekele said in the joint statement.

The investigators said they faced significant security, operational and administrative challenges on the ground and were unable to carry out all planned visits in parts of Tigray.

The collaboration between the UN rights office and the government-created EHRC also raised concerns about the impartiality of the findings.

Those fears deepened after Ethiopia expelled seven UN officials last month, including one of the UN rights office’s investigators.

Having “EHRC as a partner in the investigation is an affront to the notion of impartiality,” the TPFL said in a statement before the release of the report.

The Ethiopian government however insisted its participation in the investigation proved its seriousness about addressing rights abuses.

“Only a government that’s committed to the highest standard of transparency and integrity would subject itself to this kind of scrutiny,” it said Tuesday.

The report, based on 269 interviews with victims and witnesses, described endemic torture, with victims beaten with electric cables and metal pipes, detained incommunicado and intentionally starved.

And it detailed how thousands of civilians had been forced to flee as a result of killings, rapes, destruction and looting of property, fears of reprisals and ethnic and identity-based attacks, particularly in western Tigray.

The report also highlighted abuses carried out by Eritrean troops, who have provided military support to the Ethiopian government forces, and who had forcefully returned Eritrean refugees in Tigray to Eritrea.

Sexual violence had also been rampant in the conflict, it found, detailing reports of gang rapes by various parties against women and girls, but also men and boys. (Source: Arab News)