FILE – A woman leans on the wall of a damaged house that was shelled as federal-aligned forces entered the city, in Wukro, north of Mekele, capital of Tigray, March 1, 2021.
U.N. investigators are accusing the Ethiopian government of committing serious violations in the Tigray region which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia submitted its first report Thursday to the U.N. Human Rights Council. The three-member Commission says widespread, horrific acts of violence have been committed since fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray province broke out in November 2020.
It finds neither the government nor the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front has clean hands. However, it notes the government is responsible for most of the atrocities documented in the report, adding that some of these crimes are ongoing.
The investigators blame the government for the dire humanitarian situation in Tigray. The Commission chair, Kaari Betty Murungi, said the federal government and its allies have looted and destroyed goods indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.
She added these and other tactics have left 90 percent of the population in desperate need of assistance.
“We have reasonable grounds to believe that the widespread denial and obstruction of access to basic services, food, health care, and humanitarian assistance amounts to the crime against humanity of persecution and inhumane acts,” Murungi said. “We also have reasonable grounds to believe that the federal government is committing the war crime of using starvation as a method of warfare.”
Murungi noted the Commission also has received information indicating that Tigrayan forces have looted or otherwise misappropriated humanitarian aid.
She said there are reasonable grounds to believe the Ethiopian Air Force has committed war crimes, including intentional attacks against civilians and the use of armed drones against civilian targets, causing many civilian deaths and injuries.
“The Commission also found that rape and crimes of sexual violence have been perpetrated on a staggering scale since the conflict began, with Ethiopian and Eritrean forces and regional militias targeting Tigrayan women and girls with particular violence and brutality,” Murungi said. “At times their attackers used dehumanizing language that suggested an intent to destroy Tigrayan ethnicity.”
The Commission said the Tigrayan forces also have committed serious human rights abuses, some of which amount to war crimes. It accused the forces of large-scale killings of Amhara civilians, rape and sexual violence, and widespread looting and destruction of property.
The Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Zenebe Kebede, said the allegations in the report were unsubstantiated, selective, discriminatory, and politically motivated.
He said Ethiopia is committed to peacefully resolving the conflict in Tigray under the auspices of the African Union. He called on members of the Human Rights Council to reject the report and not to extend the mandate of the Commission.