The UN criticizes the atrocities carried out in the Tigray conflict, while Ethiopia announces the state of emergency

The investigation, which is the only human rights investigation that has been allowed in the blockaded Tigray region since fighting broke out between the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government of Ethiopia last year, did not. blaming hostilities and human rights violations at the feet of one group.

Instead, it said that all parties to the conflict, including forces from Eritrea and the Amhara region in Ethiopia allied with the government, had “committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity “. , “to varying degrees.

Among the violations that may constitute war crimes, the report details extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians.

The joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, or EHRC, is a rare partnership that has caught the attention of Tigrayans, human rights groups and other observers. , who have raised concerns about their independence from government influence. . But the UN has reaffirmed its impartiality.

“The government did not pressure us,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday during a press conference on the report, adding that restricted access to some areas of Tigray made it difficult for the team to quantify abuses. .

The investigation team visited several locations, including Tigray’s capital Mekelle, but did not appear to go to areas where some of the worst atrocities committed in the war have been reported.

Investigations by CNN, International Amnesty and others discovered evidence of massacres carried out by Eritrean forces in the village of Dengelat in Tigray and the holy city of Axum late last year. Other CNN investigation revealed details of a massacre committed by Ethiopian soldiers in the town of Mahibere Dego in Tigrayan in January. It is not clear that the joint research team traveled to any of these locations.
Bachelet formerly told the UN Human Rights Council that deployments to the east and center of Tigray, including Axum, “could not continue” due to “sudden changes in the security situation.”

The report covers the number of civilian casualties from early November 2020, when the armed conflict began, to June 2021, when the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire, a ceasefire that has not been maintained. It is based on interviews with 269 confidential interviews with victims and witnesses of alleged violations and abuses.

Witnesses related horrible experiences. A family of four killed in Mekelle when their home was bombed. A 26-year-old woman in Adet, who said she was gang-raped by Eritrean soldiers in front of her 3-year-old daughter. A man in Mai Kadra attacked by a group of Tigray youth with machetes, shot in the back and thrown into the fire. A Tigrayan fighter who said she saw Ethiopian soldiers torture prisoners in a military camp in Mekelle with electric cables, plastic-covered metal rods and wooden sticks.

Residents examine debris from a destroyed building at the site of an airstrike in Mekelle, Tigray, on October 28.

When asked deliberately whether Bachelet could attribute most of the atrocities to an armed group or groups fighting in Tigray, the UN human rights chief said that, during the investigation period, “a large number of the violations Human rights activists are linked to Ethiopia and the Eritrean Defense Forces, but we have seen that since the ceasefire there have been huge reports of abuses by the Tigrayan forces and they continue to this day. “

Bachelet called the report “devastating.”

“The Tigray conflict has been characterized by extreme brutality. The gravity and seriousness of the violations and abuses that we have documented underscore the need to hold perpetrators on all sides accountable,” he added.

Among its recommendations to the Ethiopian government, the joint investigation team has called for “independent and impartial bodies” to investigate alleged human rights violations and “to hold those responsible to account.”

Reacting to the findings, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the report “clearly established that the genocide claim was false and completely lacked a factual basis.”

CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Sharon Braithwaite, and Schams Elwazer contributed to this report.

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