In western Tigray, Amhara regional state forces occupying the area and Fano militias are exhuming hundreds of bodies and burning them in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to get rid of evidence incriminating authorities for ethnically motivated extrajudicial killings. Some 15 interviewees told the BBC that numerous mass graves of Tigrinya civilians dating back to the early moments of the civil war sparked in November 2020 have been being removed since last December.
Tigrayan authorities have also been accused, like all belligerents in Ethiopia’s civil war, of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The government of the regional state of Tigray says it is ready to cooperate, and there is no such news at the moment.
However, according to witnesses, since the third day after the UN Human Rights Council resolved to establish an independent investigation into the atrocities committed by all warring parties, in the areas of Humera and Adebay, near the border with Sudan, Amhara militias are constantly moving and burning human remains. At the establishment of the commission of inquiry, the Ethiopian government stated that it did not want to cooperate and that it considered the commission “an instrument of political pressure”, in March then the Ethiopian government – with Russian and Chinese support – tried, failing, to block funding for the commission.
The interviewees who report these news are from the Welkyat ethnic group, as Tigrayans fled from the area or were killed at the beginning of the conflict or have not returned because the area has been under constant control of the Amhara forces, which as we know intend to annex the western part of Tigray. In Humera witnesses affirm that Amharas militias, with their faces covered and gloves, exhumed the bodies of about 100 ethnic Tigrayan civilians buried in the land behind the Agricultural Institute of Humera and then burned them in the complex using chemicals. In Adebay in four mass graves it seems that trucks arrived to take away the bodies and then leave for an unknown destination.
In addition, experts from the University of Gondar – one of the institutions that claimed to have discovered mass graves attributable to the TPLF – are said to have arrived in Beaker, another town in western Tigray, to distribute the chemicals with which to burn the bodies and to instruct the soldiers on how to use them: interviewees said that some components of the Amhara militias have spoken publicly about the involvement of the University of Gondar boasting that they had prevented evidence of the murders from being found.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office has so far declined to comment on the news while an Amhara official, Agegnehu Teshager, denied that evidence is being systematically destroyed although he confirmed the exhumation operations from mass graves. However according to the official these mass graves contained Amhara killed in the last forty years, blaming the TPLF for these killings and stating that “until now it had not been possible to exhume these mass graves and show them to the world as the TPLF was ruling the nation.”