Rights groups accuse Ethiopian forces of war crimes

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Two rights groups on Wednesday said security forces and their allies in a disputed part of northern Ethiopia committed abuses against Tigrayans that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tigrayan civilians had been targeted in “a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing” in the long-contested western Tigray region since the outbreak of Ethiopia’s war in November 2020. Over the following months, several hundred thousand Tigrayans were forcibly expelled from western Tigray in a “coordinated” manner by security forces and civilian authorities through ethnically-motivated rape, murder, starvation, and other serious violations.

“These widespread and systematic attacks against the Tigrayan civilian population amount to crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes,” Amnesty and HRW said in a joint report titled “We Will Erase You From This Land”.

Over 15 months, HRW and Amnesty interviewed more than 400 people including refugees who fled into Sudan, and witnesses to the violence still living inside western Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia. They documented the sexual enslavement and gang rape of Tigrayan women, including a victim whose attackers said they were “purifying” her blood. They also gathered testimony about the death of Tigrayans in overcrowded prisons, and the summary execution of dozens of men by a river.

The atrocities were blamed on newly-appointed civilian administrators in western Tigray, and regional forces as well as irregular militias from the Amhara region. Amharas and Tigrayans are two of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups, and both lay historic claim in full to the vast fertile expanse of western Tigray that stretches from the Tekeze River to Sudan.



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