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News: Rights groups allege war crimes, crimes against humanity in Ethiopia’s conflict zones: Joint report submitted to UN ahead of universal periodic review

In a comprehensive report presented to the UN, prominent rights groups have accused Ethiopia of widespread and severe violations spanning multiple conflict zones over the preceding four years, potentially constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity (Photo:

Addis Abeba – In a compressive report submitted to the United Nations, leading human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights have alleged a broad pattern of serious violations across multiple conflict zones in Ethiopia over the past four years that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The joint submission, filed ahead of Ethiopia’s Universal Periodic Review in November 2024, methodically details widespread and systematic abuses perpetrated with impunity by government forces, allied militias, and other armed groups against civilians in the northern Tigray region as well as in the Amhara, Oromia, and other conflict-affected areas since 2019, the groups assert.

The Universal Periodic Review represents a distinctive mechanism established by the Human Rights Council, mandating that every member state of the United Nations undergo a peer assessment of its human rights performance once every 4.5 years.

In Tigray, the two-year war between Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) backed by Eritrean soldiers and allied militias against Tigrayan forces has been particularly devastating, the report alleges.

It cites evidence that Ethiopian and Eritrean forces carried out large-scale massacres, widespread sexual violence, pillaging, and indiscriminate attacks, including drone strikes and shelling of residential areas.

Tigrayan forces have also committed summary executions and attacks on refugees and civilian areas after initially moving into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, according to the report. 

In Oromia, the rights groups document a pattern of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests carried out by security forces and armed groups like the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) amid insurgent violence and a harsh counterinsurgency campaign.

The report points to the summary execution of a 17-year-old boy in 2021 and a June 2022 massacre of about 400 Amhara civilians that authorities allegedly did little to prevent.

In the Amhara region, the report alleges that Amhara militias and regional security forces have been implicated in arbitrary detentions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans from the Western Tigray Zone with the involvement of federal forces.

It cites specific incidents, like the alleged summary execution of dozens of Tigrayan civilians in apparent reprisal attacks in early 2024. 

The rights groups assert that Ethiopian authorities have persistently obstructed external investigations into these grave allegations, threatened international investigative bodies like the UN International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, and failed to conduct credible domestic probes to ensure accountability.

The report urges Ethiopian authorities to halt alleged abuses against civilians immediately, ensure accountability through fair prosecutions of perpetrators, protect refugees and displaced populations, remove impediments to humanitarian access, and support independent transitional justice efforts centered on the needs of survivors and their communities. 

It also calls on UN member states to pursue concrete actions and recommendations to address the dire human rights crisis during Ethiopia’s upcoming review in November 2024.

The rights groups emphasize the need for sustained international scrutiny and access to investigations, given the current lack of cooperation. AS

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