Joint UN, Ethiopia rights team say all sides committed abuses in Tigray

Wednesday November 03 2021
Tigray refugees

Ethiopian refugees who fled the Tigray conflict gather to receive aid. PHOTO | AFP


All sides fighting in the war in Ethiopia's northern region of Tigray committed violations that may amount to war crimes, according to a long-awaited joint investigation by the United Nations and Ethiopia and published on Wednesday.

The report by the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission was released the day after Ethiopia declared a state of emergency.

Tigrayan forces said on Monday they might march on the capital to topple the government of Africa's second-most populous nation.

The report covers most of the year-long conflict, fought by Tigrayan forces against the Ethiopian military and its key allies: forces from Ethiopia's Amhara region and soldiers from the neighbouring nation of Eritrea.

"We have reasonable grounds to believe that during this period, all parties to the Tigray conflict have committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. Some of these may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Michelle Bachelet, the OHCHR Commissioner.

All sides are accused of torturing and killing civilians, carrying out gang rapes and making arrests on the basis of ethnicity.


It was not immediately clear whether findings from the report could form the basis for legal action. Ethiopia and Eritrea are not members of the International Criminal Court, so the court has no jurisdiction.

The report recommended a possible international justice mechanism, saying Ethiopian investigations were insufficiently broad, did not always comply with international standards, and were not always transparent.

The report draws on 269 interviews, many containing graphic details of rapes and mutilations by Eritrean soldiers on military bases.


Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he accepted the report despite some "serious reservations" and said it did not accuse the government of genocide or using food as a weapon. He said a civil-military taskforce would be established to investigate all the allegations in the report.

Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh declined to comment.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda and Amhara regional spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh were unreachable.