The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is deeply concerned by reports of harassment, closure of businesses, physical attacks and killings targeting civilians, inhumane treatment of detainees and captured combatants, attacks against refugees and use of child soldiers in the context of the ongoing conflict in Tigray.
EHRC has received information on the killing of three residents of ethnic Tigrayan origin in Woreta, Fogera Woreda, South Gondar Zone of the Amhara region on 11 July, 2021.
These killings occurred following reports of an attack by TDF/TPLF forces in an area known as Feyel Wuha, on July 10, 2021, and which killed a group of militia who were reportedly mostly residents of Fogera Woreda and the Head of the Peace and Security Bureau of the same Woreda. Reports also indicate that residents from the Woreda Peace and Security Head’s birthplace, Gumera Wonz, who had come to Woreta to receive his body were responsible for the attack on the three residents of ethnic Tigrayan origin.
While the Commission is encouraged to learn that swift measures by the Fogera Woreda security and administrative authorities restored calm to the area and resulted in the quick arrest of six other residents who attempted further attacks, the incident evidences the need for regional and federal governments to take urgent measures to protect civilians against similar attacks.
Reports of a number of retaliatory attacks, including killings and abductions, against persons perceived to be opponents of TDF/TPLF and serious allegations of attacks against Eritrean refugees in Tigray region and environs are of grave concern. There are also reports of a new wave of displacements from Alamata due to active hostilities in the area and reports of retaliatory attacks in Mekoni.
While the communication blackout and interruption of social services has made human rights monitoring work difficult, the Commission will continue to follow accessibility issues in Tigray region and visit reported temporary shelters in Kobo, Weldiya and Marsa for persons displaced from Alamata and environs.
EHRC is extremely concerned about the growing intensity and the spread of the impact of the conflict to areas neighbouring Tigray region, including in Afar and Amhara regions.
The Commission is also monitoring reports of arbitrary detention and arrests, closure of businesses, and other types of harassment targeting ethnic Tigrayans in some parts of the country including Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa, reports indicate that some suspected detainees including media workers have been transported to locations outside the capital and may face continued harassment.
These unlawful incidents and arrests which have intensified particularly since 29 June, 2021, can be further exacerbated with the continued failure to address the concerns and with the inciteful speech on public and private outlets which also risk loosening intercommunal ties.
EHRC calls on the government to urgently release all persons detained without sufficient legal grounds and denied due process. The Commission also calls on federal and regional authorities to hold accountable law enforcement officials who harassed, arbitrarily arrested or committed other similar acts.
EHRC Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele said “It is precisely in such challenging and tense times that the government has to uphold an even higher threshold of duty to protect civilians and all vulnerable communities. Basic international and humanitarian law also imposes maximum restraint on all parties to the conflict during such times, including in the conduct of hostilities, to ensure that civilian lives and civilian infrastructure are not affected. The Commission will continue to monitor the situation including the situation of persons in detention. We urge all parties to the conflict as well as national and international governmental and non-governmental institutions including media to refrain from any speech, statements or actions that exacerbate the security situation and put civilians at risk.”