In Ethiopia, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn crimes against humanity in western Tigray

“We will wipe you off this land, this is our land, this is the last time a Tigrayan will live here”He promised, in November 2020, a special forces soldier from the Amhara region to a Tigrayan resident who was fleeing persecution. This unmistakable message is at the heart of the joint report published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Wednesday 6 April: “Western Tigray is scene of crimes against humanity,” and it talks about the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Tigrayans. From western Tigray.

In this 220-page investigation, for which 427 interviews were conducted over fifteen months, there are other judgments of the same kind, some dehumanizing, others directly calling for deportation and mass murder. As in Adebai, in July 2021, in an unofficial detention center in the city where the Tigrayans are locked up. A guard allied with the Amhara forces who now control western Tigray shout to the prisoners: “You Tigrays do not deserve to breathe, nor should you live, for you are not human.”

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At the heart of what Amnesty and Human Rights Watch describe War crimes and crimes against humanity Western Tigray (or Wolkite), a strip of land 12,000 km long is located2. This region is, or rather, part of the Tigray region since 1991.

When the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) annexed it on that date to Tigray, it settled thousands of Tigrayans there and carried out a forced agrarian reform march, for the benefit of the party members, who became big landowners. Thousands of the doomed are fleeing: by political dissent or by plundering their lands.

Destruction, confiscation and hate speech

When civil war broke out between the TPLF and the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in November 2020, Amharic nationalist groups retaliated. They managed to capture Wolkeit in a few days, before that, as evidenced by the work of the two NGOs, did everything to erase the existence of the Tigrayans. the scientistwho visited this area twice – between November 2020 and July 2021 – was able to see the devastation and confiscation there, as well as hate speech targeting the Tigrayans.

A damaged tank abandoned on a road in Hamira, where military operations are taking place in Tigray, Ethiopia, in November 2020.

The intimidation started as soon as we opened, in November 2020, can we read in the report. “From now on, there is no longer a thing called Tigré here.then threatened the commander of the special forces in Amhara, Major Dijen Maru, in front of a crowd of Tigrayans in the town of Ali Gocho. do not expect [à un retour de] previous administration (…). This is Amhara now. »

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This Tigrayan-majority town did not imagine that three months later, on January 17, 2021, these same Amhara special forces were going to massacre about sixty people there, in cold blood, in retaliation for defeat on the battlefield. This mass execution was carried out along the Tekkezi River.

One survivor describes the cruelty of the executioners. Thus, to get rid of the detainees, one of the leaders of the Amhara ordered his men: “Tigai don’t die easily.. they shoot again!” » Tekezi will become notorious in August 2021, when 136 bodies of Tigrayan detainees are recovered from the Sudanese side of the border.

A large-scale deportation campaign

“Our goal was to determine the extent of what happened, Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Researcher at Amnesty International explains. We discovered that the ethnic cleansing campaign was systematic. All testimonies allow us to say that the crimes against the Tigrays were generalized and systematic. »

The “Ethnic cleansing” The term Western Tigray, a term used by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in March 2021, was planned and implemented. “The new Amhara authorities, militias and special forces did everything in their power to displace the population of Tigray.”Mr. Gallopin continues.

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The report mentions massacres, torture, arbitrary arrests, rape, confiscation and looting, as well as the horror that is imposed on a daily basis: the ban on speaking the Tigrinya language or obtaining identification papers.

As a major step in the ethnic cleansing, the deportation campaign, carried out in part by buses, resulted in the displacement of at least 723,000 Tigrayans to the rest of the region between November 2020 and June 2021. The residents of that “If the Tigris want to, they can decide to leave on their own, otherwise we can also deport them….”

The two NGOs also owe the Federal Army to Abi Ahmed. “Federal forces are sometimes complicit and participate in raids and checkpoints to prevent Tigrayans from escaping or even bomb civilian areas.”notes Mr. Gallopin.

While it is in the process of reopening on the international scene after more than a year of conflict, will the Addis Ababa government respond to these accusations? Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that arrests continue today in western Tigray in “fatal circumstances”.

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