Tigray still not calm 50 days after military intervention began

United Nations to send human rights experts to Ethiopia (Press Release)

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), it would be necessary to send UN human rights experts to Ethiopia to investigate reports of human rights violations during Ethiopia's military intervention in Tigray province. There have been many reports from refugees who witnessed massacres, shootings of civilians, and lootings – and church communities and believers are said to have been affected as well. However, as they are denied access to Tigray, it is hardly possible for independent nongovernmental organizations to verify the reports, which, however, appear to be credible. "Almost 50 days after the military intervention began, there is no end to the fighting in sight. The humanitarian situation after the military strike is catastrophic, and it is to be expected that the fighting will spread to other regions of Ethiopia as well," stated Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, on Sunday in Göttingen.

The human rights organization estimated that around 950,000 people are on the run due to the military intervention in Tigray. 52,000 of them have sought refuge in neighboring Sudan, and almost all of them reported human rights violations. People from the provincial capital of Mekelle, which was temporarily besieged by Ethiopian troops, reported heavy artillery fire and many civilian deaths. The International Committee of the Red Cross was able to provide emergency care for 500 seriously injured and more than 1,000 wounded. "We can be quite sure that this was not a clean war, as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claims, but that all parties to the conflict are guilty of human rights violations," Delius said, adding that many refugees who tried to return to their villages are forcibly recruited by militias. Also, there are still attacks on villages and clashes in regions where the province's TPLF leadership is assumed to be. A bounty of 205,000 EUR had been offered for information leading to their arrest.  

The long-planned military intervention is causing a famine, as it started just before harvest time. Fields were destroyed, farmers were displaced, and thousands of animals have been stolen by militias. "Thus, hundreds of thousands of people are now dependent on emergency aid. This is a man-made disaster with catastrophic consequences," Delius warned. Last Friday, the EU agreed on 29 million Euros in emergency aid for Tigray.

The STP sharply criticized Ethiopia's crisis management. "Ethiopia's Minister for Democratization, Zadig Abraha, claimed that there were no civilian casualties in the military operation – but, clearly, this is a mockery. His rejection of any independent international investigation into the human rights situation shows that nothing more can be expected of Ethiopia's democratization," Delius criticized. In interviews with the Deutsche Welle and the BBC, the minister had objected to European concerns about the human rights situation and rejected an international investigation. "If we see that a hunger catastrophe is caused deliberately and UN conventions and international humanitarian law are ignored, it is time to rebuke Ethiopia's government," Delius demanded.

Further, the STP emphatically warned of new clashes at the border to Sudan and in the south of Ethiopia. In the province of Benishangul Gumuz, hate propaganda is fueling tensions between different ethnic groups. Minority groups must be better protected there as well.