Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International jointly released Thursday’s statement based on interviews conducted with over 30 witnesses and their families.
This comes before a U.N. Human Rights Council session on Ethiopia Friday. The government of Ethiopia objects to what it sees as interference by the West over the war which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
Ethnic Tigrayans were targeted during the conflict between Ethiopian and allied troops fighting the Tigray fighters, who dominated the national government until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was elected three years ago. The western Tigray region has seen some of the most severe abuses, with authorities and fighters from neighboring Amhara and soldiers from Eritrea occupying it.
These latest allegations of abuses are likely to be related to Tigray’s recent momentum. Ethiopia’s government claims that this momentum was slowed down by the Prime Minister, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was a former soldier. Witnesses said that Tigray authorities warned western Tigray against supporting Tigray fighters. These Tigray soldiers have been accused in increasing numbers of war crimes.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have released a joint statement stating that Amhara security forces are responsible in the latest wave expulsions, detentions, killings, and warning that Tigrayans currently detained are “at serious risk.” According to the statement, security forces routinely rounded up Tigrayans within the communities of Humera and Adebay, seperating families and exiling children.
“They took the money and other belongings of the elderly and separated them from the young. … Parents and older people were loaded onto big trucks going east. Rawyan witnesses told the human rights groups that they let the old go with nothing while the young stayed behind. Witnesses in Humera described witnessing as many as 20 trucks transporting people away. It is not always clear where they are going.
Gizachew Muluneh was the Amhara region’s spokesperson. Billene Seyoum, Abiy spokeswoman, did not respond immediately.
According to the United Nations, 20,000 people have been displaced from western Tigray recently, with most of them children and elderly. According to the U.N., more than 1,000,000 people have been forced from their homes since November 2020 when war broke out.
Not all Tigrayans can flee. Witnesses claim that hundreds of Tigrayans are being held in overcrowded, makeshift detention centers in western Tigray. This is in addition to thousands of Tigrayans being held elsewhere in Ethiopia, amid suspicions fuelled by hate speech from some senior government officials. The government claims it is only targeting Tigray troops.
Witnesses confirmed to the AP and human rights groups that people fleeing the Adebay roundups were attacked and killed. Amhara fighters searched house-to-house using axes. One man stated that the entire town was smelling of dead bodies.
Human rights groups have called on Ethiopian authorities not to attack civilians again and to allow aid groups access to western Tigray immediately. They call upon the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Security Council, to create an independent investigation mechanism to examine war abuses including those committed by Tigray forces.
“The global paralysis over Ethiopia’s armed conflict in Ethiopia has empowered human rights abusers and left communities at risk to feeling abandoned,” Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Watch, stated.