Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch denounce crimes against humanity in Western Tigray

“We are going to erase you from this land, this is our land, this is the last time a Tigrayan will live here”promised, in November 2020, a special forces soldier from the Amhara region to a Tigrayan resident fleeing persecution. This unequivocal message is at the heart of the joint report released on Wednesday 6 April by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW): entitled “Western Tigray is the scene of crimes against humanity”, it reports on methodical ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans. of Western Tigray.

In this 220-page investigation, for which 427 interviews were conducted over fifteen months, there are other sentences of the same type, some dehumanizing, others that directly call for deportation and mass murder. Like in Adebai, in July 2021, in an informal detention center in the city where Tigrayans are locked up. A guard, allied with the Amhara forces now in control of western Tigray, yells at the prisoners: “You Tigrayans don’t deserve to breathe, you shouldn’t live, you’re not human. »

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At the heart of what Amnesty and HRW describe as “war crimes and crimes against humanity” Western Tigray (or Wolkait) is located, a strip of land of 12,000 kmtwo. This territory is, or rather was part of the Tigray region since 1991.

When, on that date, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) joined Tigray, it settled thousands of Tigrayans there and carried out a forced march of land reform, benefiting the party’s members, who became big landowners. Thousands of Amharas flee: due to political dissidence or after the dispossession of their lands.

Destructions, expropriations and hate speech

When civil war broke out between the TPLF and the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in November 2020, Amhara nationalist groups took revenge. They manage to seize Wolkait in a few days, before, as the work of the two NGOs shows, doing everything possible to erase the Tigrayan presence. The worldwho visited this territory twice, between November 2020 and July 2021, was able to see the destruction, expropriations and hate speech against Tigrayans there.

A damaged tank lies abandoned on a road in Humera as military operations take place in Tigray, Ethiopia, in November 2020.

The intimidation started as soon as the conquest, in November 2020, we can read in the report. “From now on, nothing is called Tigré here.he then threatened an Amhara special forces commander, Maj. Dejene Maru, to a crowd of Tigrayans in the town of Ali Goshu. dont wait [à un retour de] previous administration (…). This is Amhara now. »

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Little did this Tigrayan-majority people imagine that, three months later, on January 17, 2021, those same Amhara special forces were going to massacre some sixty people there, in cold blood, in retaliation for a defeat on the battlefield. This mass execution took place along the Tekeze River.

One of the survivors describes the cruelty of the executioners, when, to finish off the detainees, one of the Amhara commanders orders his men: “Tigrayans don’t die easily… shoot again!” » The Tekeze will become infamous in August 2021, when 136 bodies of Tigrayan detainees are recovered from the Sudanese side of the border.

A massive deportation campaign

“Our goal was to establish the scope of what happened, explains Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a researcher at Amnesty International. We discovered that the campaign of ethnic cleansing was systematic. All the testimonies allow us to say that the crimes against the Tigrayans were widespread and systematic. »

the “ethnic cleansing” Western Tigray was planned and executed, a term used as early as March 2021 by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The new Amhara authorities, militiamen and special forces have done everything possible to displace the Tigrayan populations”continues Mr. Gallopin.

read also Ethiopia: “What is happening in Tigray is without a doubt a humanitarian catastrophe”

The massacres, torture, arbitrary arrests, rapes, expropriations and looting are listed in the report, which also recounts the terror imposed on a daily basis: the ban on speaking the Tigrinya language or obtaining identity documents.

A key step in the ethnic cleansing, the deportation campaign, carried out in part by bus, displaced at least 723,000 Tigrayans to the rest of the region between November 2020 and June 2021. In Humera town, an administrator of Amhara says, cynically, in front of the inhabitants that “If the Tigreans want it, they can decide to leave on their own, otherwise we can also deport them…”.

The two NGOs also incriminate Abiy Ahmed’s federal army. “Federal forces are complicit, sometimes engaging in raids, maintaining checkpoints that prevent Tigrayans from fleeing, or even bombing civilian areas.”note M. Gallopin.

while he is in the reconquest operation on the international scene after more than a year of conflictWill the Addis Ababa government respond to these accusations? Amnesty International and HRW report that today arrests continue in western Tigray in “lethal conditions”.

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