Ethiopia: two NGOs denounce a "campaign of ethnic cleansing" in Western Tigray

Displaced persons camp set up in the Mayweli secondary school, in Mekele, capital of the Ethiopian region of Tigray.

May 2021. © RFI / Sébastien Németh

Text by: RFI Follow

2 mins

A "campaign of ethnic cleansing" in western Tigray in Ethiopia, this is what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch denounce in a joint report made public on Wednesday.

A disputed administrative area, under Tigray rule since the 1990s, Western Tigray came under the control of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and allied forces and militias from the Amhara region within two weeks of the outbreak. of the conflict in Tigray in November 2020.

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With our correspondent in the region,

Florence Morice

They kept saying, 'We're going to kill you. Get out of the area

 ,'" says a Tigrayan woman.

This testimony is one of hundreds collected by investigators from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A total of 400 stories were collected by the NGOs.

Including that of a 70-year-old Tigrayan, arrested in Humera last year, says Laetitia Bader, director for the Horn of Africa at Human Rights Watch.

He was held for 2 weeks at Bet Hintset, one of the informal detention centers where we have documented the worst abuses in Humera, along with what he believes to be thousands of other prisoners.

He was beaten - a 70-year-old man - several times.

While in detention, two older men he knew were beaten to death.

After two weeks, and when he was already in a terrible state, he was loaded into a truck and transported to the Tekeze river.

Later, in another part of Tigray, this man will survive a drone attack.

These incredibly serious crimes should elicit global outcry and response.

But this campaign against the Tigrayans has been hidden from the whole world not only because of the will of the federal and regional authorities to block the

Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Florence Morice

In their report, Amnesty and HRW detail what they call a "coordinated campaign

of ethnically targeted persecution

" against Tigrayans in western Tigray.

Plans to empty the region of its Tigrayans have been discussed and spoken about in public whether in meetings, through pamphlets or ultimatums.

The authorities have also deprived Tigrayan communities of resources essential to their survival by denying them access to their lands.

They also encouraged looting, by issuing permits for the transport of looted goods

,” according to Fisseha Tekle, researcher for Amnesty International.

Charges of "

war crimes

" and "

crimes against humanity

"

The report by the two NGOs documents a long list of abuses: extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, mass arrests, as well as several waves of forced displacement, including one again last November.

These abuses constitute, according to the two NGOs, "

war crimes

" and "

crimes against humanity

".

Trucks carrying Tigrayans were often escorted by special forces or Amhara militias, sometimes by federal government forces.

The coordination in the schedules and movements of the buses, as well as the similarities in the testimonies indicate that these are centrally planned operations

, ”says Laëtitia Bader.

The NGO is particularly concerned today for the Tigrayans still detained in western Tigray, subjected, according to the NGO, to food deprivation and torture.

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