October 24, 2022 (NAIROBI) – Parties to the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia must protect civilians amid intensifying hostilities in the Tigray region, a campaign group said.
Amnesty International’s statement came days after the Ethiopian government said its army had captured the major town of Shire in northwestern Tigray, which hosts thousands of forcibly displaced Tigrayans, Alamata and Korem in the south of the region.
“Tigrayan civilians are afraid that the widespread abuses, such as unlawful killings, sexual violence and systematic attacks, that were rampant when the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and its allied forces were in control of these areas from November 2020 to June 2021, might happen again,” said Muleya Mwananyanda Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
According to the campaign group, in August and September, multiple air strikes in Ethiopian’s Mekelle and Adi Daero areas killed hundreds of civilians, including children.
Between 6-12 September 2022, the Eritrean army, which is allied with the ENDF, extrajudicially executed at least 40 people, including Eritrean refugees, in Sheraro town.
“Military and civilian officials must recognize their duty to prevent and prosecute war crimes committed by their forces. Failure to do so implicates them in these crimes. We have already seen in this conflict that impunity for previous atrocities will only embolden security forces to commit more heinous crimes, the war crimes and crimes against humanity Amnesty International has documented should never be allowed to happen again,” said Mwananyanda
Ethiopian authorities must suspend and remove from active duty all those, including in the Eritrean army and Amhara militia, implicated in human rights violations and war crimes and ensure that they are immediately investigated, the campaign group stressed.
It urged authorities to allow unhindered access to Tigray, so that impartial and effective humanitarian relief can be delivered, adding “Ethiopian authorities should also allow international, regional and other human rights mechanisms to conduct independent and credible investigations on past and present atrocities in the northern Ethiopian conflict”.
Since 2020, Amnesty International has reportedly documented grave human rights violations by all parties of the conflict in the Tigray region, which may amount to war crimes and crimes under international law.