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Ethiopia to Examine Rights Groups’ Report on West Tigray

FILE - Villagers return from a market to Yechila town in south central Tigray walking past scores of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, July 10, 2021.
FILE - Villagers return from a market to Yechila town in south central Tigray walking past scores of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, July 10, 2021.

Ethiopia's government has said it will carefully examine a scathing report by international rights groups that accuses its military and allied forces of gross rights abuses in Tigray region. But it also poured doubt on the report, which alleges ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as having "ethnic undertones" and being one-sided.

Through its ministry of foreign affairs, Ethiopia issued a statement on the report and said it will carefully examine the rights violations allegedly committed in the western part of Tigray.

The ministry said Ethiopia is committed to holding accountable all those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law. It said an inter-ministerial task force is expected to examine the report and will give it due consideration.

But Ethiopia also criticized the joint report from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for only blaming the Ethiopian government for violations allegedly recorded in Western Tigray.

The two rights’ groups released a detailed report on the situation in Western Tigray on Wednesday. According to the report, newly appointed officials of the area and authorities from neighboring Amhara region, acting with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces, systematically expelled several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from their homes using threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass detention, pillage, forcible transfer, and the denial of humanitarian assistance.

The rights groups say the report is based on interviews with over 400 residents of Western Tigray.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, says Amhara officials and security forces have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in Western Tigray from their homes. He also blamed the Ethiopian authorities for denying the crime and failing to address it.

The report also indicates the Amhara forces have expelled ethnic Tigrayans from accessing their farmlands, homes and even humanitarian support. Unable to survive, says the report, many ethnic Tigrayans left the area.

The report also covers the alleged Tekeze River bridge killing. Witnesses say Amhara forces, known as the Fano, executed more than 60 Tigrayans in the town of Adi Goshu in January 2021.

The detailed report also found evidence of deaths in detention facilities across western Tigray and gang rape by security forces.

In Wednesday’s report both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch asked the Ethiopian government to bring all those implicated in the report to justice. They have also called on the government to release detainees in Western Tigray, demobilize abusive forces operating there and make the region more accessible to humanitarian aid.