Amid “conflict, blanket denials and finger pointing”, UN rights chief calls for investigation in Tigray, Ethiopia |
“Deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, destruction and widespread looting of public and private property by all parties continue to be communicated with us, as well as reports of the prosecution fighting in the center of Tigray in particular ”, mentionned the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
“Credible information also continues to emerge on serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Tigray in November last year,” she added.
The conflict between the Ethiopian government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, when the prime minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base. Government forces said the area had been secured by the end of November, but TPLF resistance continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights violations.
Verification of information
Reliable sources have shared information about the killing of eight protesters by security forces in Adigrat, Mekelle, Shire and Wukro, in the eastern northern region, between February 9 and 10.
And between December and January, more than 136 cases of rape were also reported in hospitals there, with indications that many more such cases remain unreported.
The government said investigations were underway into the cases of sexual violence.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Office, OHCHR, succeeded in corroborating information on some of the incidents that occurred last November, which point to indiscriminate shelling in the towns of Mekelle, Humera and Adigrat in the Tigray region, and reports of serious human rights violations in Axum and Dengelat in central Tigray by Eritrean Armed Forces, including massacres.
A preliminary analysis of the information indicates that serious violations of international law, which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed by several parties to the conflict.
OHCHR has identified the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Eritrean armed forces, the Amhara regional forces and affiliated militias as culprits.
Independent probe essential
“Given the multiplicity of actors in the conflict, general denials and general denials, there is a clear need for an objective and independent assessment of these reports – the victims and survivors of these violations should not be denied their rights. right to truth and justice, “said the High Commissioner, urging the Government to grant OHCHR and other independent observers access to the region, to establish the facts and to contribute to accountability,” whatever the ownership of the authors ”.
Ms. Bachelet also raised concerns about the detention in Tigray of journalists and translators working for local and international media.
While they have now been released, there have been disturbing remarks from a government official that “deceptive international media” officials are held accountable.
“Victims and witnesses of human rights violations and abuses should not be prevented from sharing their testimony for fear of reprisal,” she said.
Victims and witnesses of human rights violations and abuses should not be prevented from sharing their testimony – UN Head of Rights
Translate promises into action
While welcoming the government’s recent statements on accountability and measures taken in terms of access for humanitarian actors, Ms. Bachelet urged the authorities to ensure that these commitments are translated into reality.
She underscored OHCHR’s readiness to support efforts to advance human rights, including efforts by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to ensure accountability.