“You are the devil and we purify your blood”: Ethiopian testimonies point to war crimes

When they shot at us, I fell first, then I saw the others in front of me being hit and falling too. Then the people behind me fell and covered me (…) Afterwards, they said: ‘Tigrayans don’t die easily, shoot again’”. testifies the survivor of a massacre of around sixty Tigrayans killed by the Fanos (an Amhara militia), on January 17, 2021 at the Tekezé bridge, on the outskirts of the city of Adi Goshu.

“They repeated every night: ‘We are going to kill you (…) Get out of here” recalls a resident of the town of Baeker, where the Fanos gave the Tigrayans twenty-four or seventy-two hours to leave or risk being killed. And these words heard by this 27-year-old woman while several militia men were raping her: “You Tigrayans should disappear from the territory to the west [de la rivière Tekezé]. You are the devil and we purify your blood. »

Chilling testimonials

The testimonies collected by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the abuses attributed to the security forces and militias in the western part of Tigray (northern Ethiopia) are chilling. This territory was conquered by the federal army and Amhara militiamen (from the neighboring Amhara region) during the war between Addis Ababa and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which began in November 2020. It is renowned for its fertile land and claimed for decades by the Amharas and the Tigrayans: two of the main peoples who make up the Ethiopian mosaic.

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Researchers from the two NGOs investigated for fifteen months, interviewing more than 400 people, consulting medical and forensic reports, court documents, satellite images, photos and videos allowing them, they explain, to corroborate the testimonies. reporting serious human rights abuses.

Their findings are implacable. They claim that the Amhara authorities and security forces are carrying out a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to drive Tigrayans from their homes in Western Tigray, with the acquiescence and possible involvement of Ethiopian federal forces“. “To do this, they continue, they resorted to threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, massive use of arbitrary detention, looting, forced transfers and deprivation of humanitarian aid. These widespread and systematic attacks against the Tigrayan civilian population constitute war crimes as well as crimes against humanity. »

Ethiopian authorities deny

The report also discusses crimes committed by Tigrayan militias and local residents against Amharas living there and migrant workers. Finally, he accuses the federal government of covering up these abuses by restricting access to Tigray for humanitarian organizations: “Ethiopian authorities continue to deny the shocking scale of the crimes committed, and shamefully fail to act to end them,” indignantly the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth.

“The reaction of Ethiopia’s international and regional partners is not commensurate with the gravity of the crimes that continue to be committed in western Tigray”, adds Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International. The governments in question must help end the campaign of ethnic cleansing, ensure that Tigrayans and Tigrayans can voluntarily return home safely, and lead concerted efforts to seek justice for these heinous crimes. » For the time being, however, if the conflict has caused thousands of deaths and plunged millions into hunger, it has been frozen since the Ethiopian authorities and the Tigrayan rebels agreed on March 24 to a “humanitarian truce”.


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