Panafrican News Agency

Ethiopian Crisis: Ethiopian rights group says 'over 100' civilians killed by Eritrean soldiers

Addis Abba, Ethiopia (PANA) - The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says information it collected during its preliminary investigation into the human rights situation in the northern region of Tigray indicates that over 100 civilians were killed by Eritrean soldiers in the city of Aksum.

It said it found that on 28 and 29 November 2020 "grave violations of human rights were committed" in the city.

"... in Aksum, over one hundred residents including visitors from  other parts of the country who came to mark the annual Aksum Tsion celebration and internally displaced persons from other parts of Tigray, were killed by Eritrean soldiers."

It quoted residents, families of victims and eyewitnesses as telling the EHRC investigators that “civilians were killed in front of their children, spouses and mothers”.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Tuesday that soldiers found to have committed "atrocities" in the northern Tigray region would be held "accountable". 

In an address to Parliament, Abiy said he had spoken to Eritrean officials about allegations that soldiers from Eritrea had carried out atrocities in Tigray.

The EHRC report said Eritrean soldiers went door-to-door asking women “where their husbands or children were” telling them “to bring their sons out if they have any” and asking questions in Tigrinya and shooting at civilian men they dragged out of houses and caught on streets even as the men pleaded saying they were not armed.

"Families of victims and eyewitnesses identified the attackers as Eritrean soldiers by their distinct Eritrean Tigrinya accent, by the uniforms and shoes they were wearing and a distinct cultural marking on the face of some of the Eritrean soldiers,” the report said. 

The EHRC said these "widespread human rights violations are not ordinary crimes but grave contraventions of applicable international and human rights laws and principles".

These were marked by intentionally directed attacks against civilians who were not directly taking part in the hostilities and including intentional looting, destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity.

The EHRC said as these grave human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes, it underscores the need for a comprehensive investigation into overall human rights situation in Tigray region.  

Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, in a report last month termed the killings crimes against humanity.

It said Eritrean troops fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray state systematically killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in Aksum.

It said it spoke to 41 survivors and witnesses – including in-person interviews with recently arrived refugees in eastern Sudan and phone interviews with people in Aksum – as well as 20others with knowledge of the events.

Eritrea dismissed the the Amnesty International report.

The UN, US, human rights and humanitarian organisations have expressed grave concern about atrocities in Tigray, including those perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers. 

On 4 November, the Ethiopian military began operations in Tigray in response to what Prime Minister Abiy described as attacks on federal forces and bases by forces affiliated with Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but TPLF resistance has continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses.  

-0- PANA MA 24March2021