US says all sides committed war crimes in Ethiopia conflict

Tuesday March 21 2023
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said on March 20, 2023 that the United States has determined that all sides committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. PHOTO | EVELYN HOCKSTEIN | POOL | AFP



The United States has determined that all sides committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region that killed tens of thousands of people, left hundreds of thousands facing hunger and displaced millions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

Blinken said that after a careful review of the law and facts, the State Department determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), Eritrean Defence Force, forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and regional forces from Amhara committed war crimes during the conflict.

Members of the ENDF, Eritrean forces, and Amhara forces also committed crimes against humanity, Blinken told reporters, including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence and persecution.

Read: Looting, rape stalk Ethiopia's Tigray

Members of the Amhara forces committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray, Blinken said.


Trip to Ethiopia

The determination comes after the top US diplomat's trip to Ethiopia last week, where Blinken praised progress in implementing a peace deal in the country but stopped short of re-admitting it to a US trade programme.

The Ethiopian government and forces from Tigray signed a ceasefire in November 2022, ending the conflict.

Responding the US report, Ethiopia's government on Tuesday accused the United States of taking a "partisan" approach by alleging that its forces and Eritrean troops had committed war crimes during the two-year conflict in Tigray.

"The US statement is inflammatory," the foreign ministry said in a statement..

Ethiopia's foreign ministry said the US statement "unfairly apportions blame among different parties in the conflict".

"This partisan and divisive approach from the US is ill-advised," it said, calling it "unwarranted" and unhelpful to the peace process.

Read: Blinken praises Ethiopia peace progress

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel, TPLF official Getachew Reda, and Amhara regional government spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh did not respond to requests for comment.

Blinken said he discussed with both sides in his meetings in Addis Ababa last week that there must be acknowledgement for the atrocities committed by all parties, as well as accountability.

Devastating conflict

"The conflict in northern Ethiopia was devastating. Men, women and children were killed. Women and girls were subject to horrific forms of sexual violence. Thousands were forcibly displaced from their homes. Entire communities were specifically targeted based on their ethnicity. Many of these actions were not random or a mere by-product of war - they were calculated and deliberate," Blinken said.

"In terms of what happens next in Ethiopia, including what process they establish to provide for justice, for accountability, we'll see. I don't think that's been determined," he said.

Read: Tigray rebels start handing over heavy weapons

Human rights violations by all sides, including extra-judicial killings, rapes, looting and displacing people by force, have been documented by UN bodies, Ethiopia's state-appointed human rights commission, independent aid groups and media including Reuters. All sides have denied the allegations.

The United States was outspoken in its criticism of alleged atrocities by Ethiopian forces and their allies from Eritrea and the Amhara region during the Tigray war.

When presented with allegations of human rights violations, Ethiopia - Africa's second most populous nation and traditionally a US ally in East Africa — has traditionally responded by accusing Washington of meddling in its internal affairs and threatening to reassess the bilateral relationship.