The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said a long-awaited joint investigation into the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia could not put one of its deadliest attacks, the alleged massacre of hundreds of people in the holy city of Axum, on the scene.
Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council on Monday that deployments to eastern and central Tigray, where witnesses accused Ethiopians and allies of neighboring Eritrea of some of the worst abuses of the ten-month war, “could not continue” .
She calls ‘sudden changes in the security situation and in the conflict dynamics’. She did not give details.
The war experienced a dramatic shift at the end of June when the Tigray forces recaptured much of the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia and withdrew Ethiopians and allies.
The shift in the war took place about halfway through the joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and the government created by the government between 16 May and 20 August.
The joint report will be published on November 1, a delay in the once-expected release this month.
“It is already clear that documented cases include multiple allegations of human rights violations, including attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances, among other serious violations,” Bachelet said.
“Sexual and gender-based violence is characterized by a pattern of extreme brutality, including gang rape, sexualized torture, and ethnically targeted sexual violence.”
Bachelet added that during the period under review, Tigrayan forces were allegedly responsible for attacks on civilians, including indiscriminate killings that displaced nearly 76,500 people in the Afar region and an estimated 200,000 others in Amhara.
More than 200 individuals were reportedly killed in the most recent clashes in these regions, and 88 individuals, including children, were injured, she said.
“We have also received serious reports of child recruitment in the conflict by Tigrayan forces, which have been banned under international law,” Bachelet said.
A joint statement last week said the team was investigating in the Tigray capital, Mekele, as well as the communities of Wukro, Samre, Alamata, Bora, Maichew, Dansha, Maikadra and Humera in the southern and western parts of the region. .
The team also investigated Gondar and Bahir Dar in the neighboring Amhara region, as well as the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.
Conflict ‘threatens to engulf Horn of Africa’
Northern Ethiopia has been embroiled in conflict since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray to remove the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a move he said was in response to TPLF attacks on army camps . The TPLF said federal forces and their allies had launched a ‘coordinated attack’.
The fighting continued, with several reports of mass murders and other alleged war crimes, and hundreds of thousands experiencing famine.
In June, Tigrayan forces captured Tigray’s capital Mekelle and the federal forces largely withdrew. Since then, Tigrayan forces have launched offensive operations in neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and causing allegations of summary executions and indiscriminate shelling.
The Tigray forces have denied these allegations, saying they are trying to break what they describe as a humanitarian blockade on Tigray and prevent pro-government forces from regrouping.
Noting that the conflict had spread in Ethiopia, Bachelet said the conflict ran the risk of “spreading to the entire Horn of Africa”.
“If the situation does not improve, Ethiopia is the scene of a human tragedy on a scale unparalleled this century,” British Ambassador Rita French told the Human Rights Council, adding that the Ethiopian government “is a Tigray’s de facto blockade presides’ 400,000 are now starving.
Ethiopia’s attorney general, Gedion Timothewos Hessebon, told the council that the team had not investigated recent reported killings in places such as the Amhara community of Chenna Teklehaymanot due to the cut-off date of the joint investigation.
The Attorney General also criticized a separate inquiry by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, an institution of the African Union, as one-sided and “therefore not recognized by the government of Ethiopia”.
The body’s report will be available by the end of the year, commissioner of inquiry commissioner Remy Ngoy Lumbu told the council.