According to an investigation by the United Nations, serious human rights violations have been committed in the conflict over the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. Most of them were perpetrated by the armed forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which interfered in the conflict, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in Geneva on Wednesday. Recently, however, there have been increasing reports of human rights violations on the part of the Tigray independence movement. "Some could be war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Bachelet. Ethiopia's government denied the allegations.

There were disturbing indications of ethnically based violence, but not enough evidence to speak of genocide, said Bachelet.

The investigation was carried out jointly with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

This gave the team access to large parts of the Tigray region, which has been largely sealed off by the government, but not all parts.

The team documented killings, torture, sexual violence, violence against refugees and the displacement of civilians.

The military conflict began in early November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began ousting the People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled the Tigray region.

Since the beginning of August, the conflict has spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

The situation of the people is devastating because humanitarian workers hardly ever come to the region.

600 men driven through the street

"The Tigray conflict is characterized by extreme brutality," said Bachelet.

The perpetrators on all sides should be held accountable.

The Ethiopian authorities have given assurances that a good dozen perpetrators have been punished and that a further 20 are being investigated.

However, there is no transparency in these processes.

If the national authorities are unable to pursue all violations, an independent commission must be set up to collect evidence for legal proceedings.

The human rights activists documented, among other things, that civilians in the rebel-held city of Mekelle were killed by shelling by Ethiopian forces. Tigray militia militias killed Amhara civilians. The Eritrean armed forces killed civilians in Tigray and once drove 600 men from Tigray naked or wearing only underpants through the streets of a city in order to humiliate them. A 70-year-old man reported that Eritrean women soldiers mocked them and took photos. Tigray fighters had also put on display and insulted Ethiopian soldiers who had been brought under their control.

Ethiopia's government defended itself against the allegations.

There is no factual basis for the allegations of genocide or the use of "hunger as a weapon of war," it said in a statement.

The investigation did not provide any evidence that the government deliberately refused to provide humanitarian aid to the civilian population in Tigray.

However, the violations and attacks by government troops described in the report are "worrying and are being taken seriously".

The government will immediately set up a high-ranking task force to investigate the allegations and bring the perpetrators to justice.