By Addis Standard Staff
Addis Abeba, November 13, 2021- The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that the violations of human rights committed by the TPLF may constitute war crimes under international humanitarian law. In a report released this morning, the commission said, at least 184 civilians had been killed and many suffered physical and psychological injuries at the hands of TPLF fighters in areas of South Gondar and North Wollo Zones of Amhara region. The report implicates TPLF fighters in willfully killing scores of civilians in towns and rural areas they captured; systematically committing large scale looting and destruction of public and private properties.
In the report that covers the period between July and August 28, 2021 and September 5, 2021 the commission said TPLF fighters exposed civilians to death, injury and destruction of property from counter attacks by government forces by firing artillery into urban areas; digging trenches in and firing heavy weapons from civilian homes and premises. The commission noted that the investigation team could not access all areas of conflict due to the security issues and as such, it is expected that the actual number of civilian deaths could be much higher than what is indicated in this report.
“Artillery fired by both parties to the conflict has damaged homes, hospitals and religious institutions.”
According to the report, in South Gondar and North Wollo Zones as well as southern areas of Tigray region, TPLF forces killed civilians based on accusations of being supporters of the ruling party or government. Refusing to guide them or show them a particular place; sheltering wounded members of the defense forces; failing to handover the goods or properties they asked for also resulted in killings. Mentally ill people were not spared from the attacks, they were killed based on accusations of being spies for the government. Moreover, IDPs who fled the conflict in Tigray, on entering Kobo town in Amhara region, were labelled as infiltrators and informants for TPLF, and six of them were killed by Kobo town youths in an area called Gobye, and three more by the Amhara special forces.
“Artillery fired by both parties to the conflict has damaged homes, hospitals and religious institutions,” the EHRC said, further explaining that TPLF forces mounted attacks and defended against the government forces in civilian communities in Sahrna Kebele and Kebele 03 of Lay Gayint Woreda; as well as Gasay Debre Selam Medhanyalem Church. According to the report, government forces launched artillery fire onto these communities and the church. “The roof, doors and windows of Chechewo Medhanyalem Church in Lay Gayint were also damaged by artillery.”
“TPLF forces imprisoned and forcibly disappeared several youths whom they accused of collaborating with the government.”
The report pointed out that civilian houses were damaged by aerial bombardment and civilians inside these houses sustained minor injuries due to shell fragments. Similarly, it was stated in the report that TPLF artillery attacks on the towns of Kobo and Woldia killed 7 civilians in Kobo town and 2 women and a three-year-old child striking them in their home in Woldia town.
IDPs told the EHRC that TPLF forces imprisoned and forcibly disappeared several youths whom they accused of collaborating with the government. “After they controlled Mehoni town, they targeted people perceived to be supporters of the ruling party, Prosperity Party, then looted and set their homes ablaze.” After the declaration of unilateral ceasefire by the Federal government and withdrawal of its troops from several areas in Tigray, members of the interim government, particularly those in the lower ranks, who stayed behind because they did not have information of the withdrawal, fled to Raya Kobo, a neighboring area in the Amhara region for fear of reprisal attacks. However, Three Tigrigna speakers who carried Tigray region ID cards were killed on July 12, 2021 by the Amhara special forces on suspicion of being “terrorists”.
“All areas covered by this investigation in the Amhara region suffered widespread pillage and destruction of civilian properties by the TPLF forces,” the report read, adding, “In some towns, TPLF forces targeted the homes of government officials and members of the militia and Fano and their families, while in other places the looting and destruction was indiscriminate.”
TPLF forces targeted the homes of government officials and members of the militia and Fano and their families.
Discussing the situation of IDPs, the report said, “At the time of this investigation, there were 183,404 persons in Dessie, Hayik and Kombolcha towns.” The commission indicated that during the investigation team’s site visit, more than 62,000 people had not received any humanitarian assistance either from the government or humanitarian organizations.
In the report the the Commission said that it was not able to collect sufficient information to assess the proportionality of the attacks or whether all feasible precautions were taken by the government forces to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian lives. But the report identified the use of artillery fire by the ENDF in offensive and defensive attacks against the TPLF forces, who launched attacks from civilian areas causing loss of civilian lives, injury to civilians and damage to property.
“The findings of the investigation underscores the need to put an urgent stop to the continued suffering caused to civilians.”
Daniel Bekele (PhD)
EHRC commissioner Daniel Bekele (PhD) called on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations to ensure that civilians and civilian objects do not become targets, “The findings of the investigation underscores the need to put an urgent stop to the continued suffering caused to civilians.” He also underlined the need to ensure that perpetrators of these violations are held accountable, investigation in more conflict affected areas of Amhara and Afar regions, a separate investigation into numerous reports of sexual and gender-based violations committed by parties to the conflict in Amhara and Afar regions including survivors’ access to psychosocial and other humanitarian assistance.
The report concluded by reminding each party to the conflict that the obligation to respect human rights humanitarian laws does not depend on the conduct of other parties to the conflict, and that in all situations, all parties to the conflict must abide by it. AS