Last autumn, civil war-like conditions broke out in Ethiopia. Now a government-affiliated body has published a report on massacres of the civilian population.
According to the knowledge of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), soldiers from Eritrea carried out a massacre of more than a hundred civilians during the fighting in the northern Ethiopian conflict region of Tigray. On November 28 and 29, there were “serious human rights violations” in the city of Aksum in Tigray, the formal but independent body affiliated with the government in Addis Ababa announced on Wednesday.
The massacre may be a “crime against humanity,” said EHRC. “It illustrates the need for a comprehensive study of the human rights situation in the Tigray region as a whole.” The human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had previously reported massacres of hundreds of civilians in Tigray. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also denounced “ethnic cleansing” in the region in mid-March.
Corpses remained lying around for days
At the end of February, the EHRC sent a team of experts to the Unesco World Heritage city of Aksum, which conducted interviews with dozens of witnesses to the massacre by the beginning of March. Many of those questioned said that Eritrean soldiers executed unarmed civilians in front of their families. The soldiers also shot at people who tried to recover the bodies of their relatives.
“Eritrean soldiers went door to door, asked the women where their husbands and children were, and asked them to bring their sons out,” the EHRC report said. The bodies of the killed civilians were left lying on the street for days. How many civilians were killed in Aksum, the EHRC was initially unable to quantify.
60,000 people on the run
Investigations into further allegations against the Eritrean soldiers continued, EHRC said. Both the Eritrean and Ethiopian armed forces had been accused of looting hospitals in Tigray, causing patient deaths. According to the EHRC report, many residents also complained about the inaction of the Ethiopian armed forces, while Eritrean soldiers damaged churches in the historic old town of Aksum.
The EHRC report was published one day after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed first admitted the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray after weeks of denials. The head of government also hinted at the involvement of Eritrean soldiers in the violence against civilians in the region. Abiy called attacks on the civilian population “unacceptable”.
At the beginning of November, the Ethiopian troops began an offensive against the People’s Liberation Front TPLF, which ruled Tigray. Around 60,000 people fled the violence in neighboring Sudan. A good three weeks later, Abiy announced the capture of the regional capital Mekele and the end of the military operation.