Two months of war in Ethiopia
Eritrea's involvement in war crimes must be investigated (Press Release)
Two months after the beginning of Ethiopia's military offensive in the province of Tigray, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) draws a critical balance about the aspect of human rights. According to the human rights organization, eyewitness reports suggest that at least 2,000 members of the civilian population were killed, and more than one million people have fled the violence. Thus, it would be necessary to initiate an independent investigation into the alleged human rights violations – especially as some of the acts of violence would have to be seen as war crimes.
"Eritrea's involvement in the war must be investigated, as Eritrean army members are said to be responsible for numerous attacks and looting," stated Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director. "While the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea deny direct involvement of the formerly hostile neighboring country, there is overwhelming evidence that the Eritrean army was present in Tigray." Ethiopia's government had started the offensive on November 4, 2020, and had officially declared it over on November 28, 2020. However, according to eyewitness reports, there are still clashes in different parts of Tigray.
"This is not a limited military operation to enforce the law, and it is not a purely internal Ethiopian issue. It is a full-blown war with international involvement and consequences for the entire region," Delius emphasized. Instead of the announced fast intervention with special attention to the protection of the civilian population, there is looting, robbery, and murder – as in most other wars. Tigray is threatened by a prolonged guerrilla war, since the fighters of the People's Liberation Front of Tigray (TPLF), which dominates the region, have retreated into mountainous regions that are difficult to access. The STP had repeatedly warned of a new guerrilla war in northern Ethiopia.
"It is time for the international community to ask questions about who is responsible for the violence – and to hold them accountable," Delius said. "Even reasons of state cannot justify ignoring the shelling and looting of churches and mosques, the attacks on believers, or the heavy artillery fire on densely populated residential areas in cities."
Eyewitnesses reported many civilian deaths in the towns of Aksum, Wukro, Digum, Nebelet, Abi Adi, and Hazwzen. Many rural areas were depopulated, especially in southwestern Tigray, as the people fled the violent occupation of the region by militias from the neighboring province of Amhara, which are allied with the Ethiopian army. The militias are accused of forced recruitment and attacks on refugees. On the part of Amhara, there are historic land claims to the region. "As justified as these land claims may be, their enforcement will only fuel flight and new tensions between ethnic communities," Delius warned.