GENEVA: The UN rights chief on Wednesday denounced the extreme brutality characterizing the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, following a joint UN-Ethiopia report warning of possible “crimes against ‘humanity’ committed by all parties.
Michelle Bachelet insisted on the need to bring perpetrators of a wide range of rights violations to justice.
“The conflict in Tigray has been marked by extreme brutality,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.
âThe gravity and gravity of the violations and abuses we have documented underscore the need to hold perpetrators on all sides to account. “
His comments came after a joint investigation by his office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into abuses by all sides since the Tigray conflict erupted a year ago.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to the northern Tigray region on November 3 last year, to detain and disarm the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, in response, he said, to attacks by the Tigray. group against army camps.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate promised a quick victory, but by the end of June the rebels had regrouped and had recaptured most of Tigray.
And Wednesday’s report came after Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighborhoods on Tuesday amid fears that rebels Tigrayans are heading for the capital.
The long-awaited joint report, which covers the period from November 3, 2020 to June, when the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire, found evidence of “serious abuses and violations” by all parties to the conflict .
He highlighted extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence among other abuses, and said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that a number of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes â.
“This report offers all parties an opportunity to recognize their responsibility and to commit to taking concrete steps in terms of accountability, reparation for the victims and the search for a lasting solution to end the suffering of millions. people, âEHRC chief Daniel Bekele said in the joint statement.
Investigators said they faced significant security, operational and administrative issues on the ground and were unable to carry out all the planned visits to parts of Tigray.
The collaboration between the UN rights office and the government-created EHRC also raised concerns about the impartiality of the findings.
These fears intensified after Ethiopia expelled seven UN officials last month, including one of the UN rights office investigators.
To have “EHRC as a partner in the investigation is an affront to the notion of impartiality,” the TPFL said in a statement ahead of the report’s release.
The Ethiopian government, however, insisted that its participation in the investigation proved its seriousness in the fight against rights violations.
“Only a government that is committed to the highest standards of transparency and integrity would submit to this kind of scrutiny,” he said Tuesday.
The report, based on 269 interviews with victims and witnesses, described rampant torture, with victims beaten with electric cables and metal pipes, held incommunicado and intentionally starved.
And it details how thousands of civilians were forced to flee following killings, rapes, destruction and looting of property, fears of reprisals and ethnic and identity attacks, especially in western Tigray. .
The report also highlighted abuses by Eritrean troops, who provided military support to Ethiopian government forces and forcibly returned Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea.
Sexual violence had also been endemic in the conflict, he said, detailing reports of gang rapes by various parties against women and girls, but also men and boys.
Investigators, for example, had heard of a 16-year-old boy who was allegedly raped by nine Eritrean soldiers and who subsequently committed suicide.
The joint investigation team called for a further independent investigation into all the alleged abuses and to prosecute the perpetrators.
He also urged the Eritrean authorities to immediately release all Eritrean refugees forcibly returned to the country.
And he underscored the need for the international community to step up and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
He suggested that the UN should consider creating an international investigative team to gather evidence for possible future criminal prosecutions.