On April 6, a joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) accused the Amhara militias of war crimes and crimes against humanity with the complicity of the federal government. The sources of the report are satellite images, since the press coverage has long since vanished, and interviews – about 400 – which indicate that “this campaign of ethnic cleansing has been conducted through numerous human rights abuses including mass detention and torture, sexual violence, summary executions, denial of humanitarian aid and forced expulsion of Tigrayans.”
The region that is covered by the report, which has collected these testimonies since the outbreak of the conflict in November 2020 and until December 2021, is the west of Tigray which is divided from the rest of Tigray by the Tekezze River and is under the occupation of the Amhara forces since the beginning of the conflict. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are calling for the disarmament of militias, the suspension of officers linked to abuses, and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force led by the African Union in the area.
However, this is just one of the many times that international NGOs have called attention to the Tigrinya conflict, without receiving an echo from any major power in the international community. This time, however, the United States and the European Union have taken a stand.
The U.S. has requested the immediate release of the Tigrayans illegally detained and access to an international assessment commission on the area: “the United States reiterates its grave concern about the ethnically motivated atrocities committed by the Amharas authorities in Western Tigray […] in particular, we are very shocked by the conclusions of the report [by HRW and AI, Ed] which states that these acts amount to ethnic cleansing. This is the official statement of the U.S. government, which then goes on to request the collaboration of the Ethiopian government with the UN Human Rights Commission and the withdrawal of foreign forces (Eritrean) as well as those of regional authorities.
The European Union is essentially following the same US line, with the exception that in December 2021 it created the International Commission of Human Rights Experts for Ethiopia requiring the government to cooperate with this committee.
The Ethiopian federal government said the humanitarian report is “unhelping” but promised to “look into” the allegations through its own inter-ministerial task force. At the same time, it says the ethnic overtones seem to “disproportionately distribute blame while trying to exonerate others,” saying this increases hatred and makes reconciliation difficult. At the same time, the government distances itself from the accusations, thereby also exonerating the Amhara militias, stating that “responsibility is individual.”
The Tigrinya forces, on the other hand, have obviously viewed the report very favorably as well as the support of the USA and the EU.
However, until an independent commission will not be authorized to intervene all this will remain carte blanche nor will it be possible to investigate the atrocities committed by the Tigrinya forces and how much both sides are involved in a political scheme or if these are simply individual acts.