War crimes committed by all sides in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray conflict, US says

US President Joe Biden’s administration has determined that all sides in Ethiopia’s brutal northern Tigray conflict committed war crimes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

The conflict, which ended with a peace deal in November, is estimated to have killed half a million civilians in Tigray alone.

“I condemn the unspeakable violence against civilians and destruction that occurred in northern Ethiopia,” Mr Blinken said, as Washington’s 2022 Human Rights Report was published.

“Recognising the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace. Those most responsible for atrocities, including those in positions of command, must be held accountable.”

Mr Blinken said that a “careful review of the law and facts” led to the determination that members of Ethiopian National Defence Forces, Eritrean Defence Forces, Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces and Amhara forces all committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

He said Amhara forces committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer, and ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray.

UN-backed investigators last year detailed war crimes and crimes against humanity by Ethiopian government forces, Tigray forces and Eritrea’s military — including rape, murder and pillage — during the nearly two-year conflict.

The US 2022 report details numerous human rights abuses in Ethiopia last year, including unlawful or arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings by the government, enforced disappearance by the government and torture.

Mr Blinken said that Washington would work with Ethiopia as it implements a “credible transitional justice process” and would “stand with Ethiopia as it honestly faces the abuses in its past, provides accountability for the harms committed against citizens and moves towards a future of lasting peace.”

Washington announced $331 million in new humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia last week through the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), following Mr Blinken’s recent trip to the country.

He met Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen to discuss the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that “has resulted in considerable progress in re-establishing peace across northern Ethiopia,” the State Department said.

Washington said the officials also discussed the need for “unhindered access by international human rights monitors” to conflict-affected areas and areas where the US can be “supportive” in the process of transitional justice.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Redwan Hussien Rameto, second left, representative of the Ethiopian government, and Getachew Reda, second right, representative of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, sign a peace agreement regarding the African Union-led negotiations to resolve conflict in Ethiopia at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation offices in Pretoria, South Africa. AFP

Updated: March 20, 2023, 6:02 PM


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