Eritrean soldiers killed hundreds of civilians in Tigray: HRW | Conflict News
Children among those shot dead by troops in November massacre in Axum, Ethiopia’s Tigray region, rights group says
Eritrean forces shot dead hundreds of children and civilians in a November massacre in neighboring Ethiopia’s war-stricken Tigray region, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
Friday’s report was the second major analysis of Eritrean abuse in the city of Axum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the past week.
An Amnesty International investigation in the same events detailed how Eritrean troops “went wild and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood”.
The rights watchers’ findings come as global concern mounts over atrocities committed by Eritrean troops in Tigray.
UN leaders Thursday accused the Eritreans of possible crimes against humanity and urged them to withdraw.
Addis Ababa and Asmara deny that Eritrea is actively involved in Tigray.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in early November military operations against leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Tigray’s ruling party, in early November, saying they had come in response to attacks by the Tigray. TPLF against the Federal Army camps.
Ethiopian and Eritrean forces entered Axum on November 20 after “indiscriminate” shelling that killed civilians, the HRW report released on Friday said.
The Eritreans then engaged in “widespread looting” before the eyes of Ethiopian troops, according to the report.
“I asked a soldier, why don’t you do anything, you are Ethiopian and we are in Ethiopia; you allow the Eritreans to do it, ”said one resident, quoting one resident.
“He said to me: we need an order from above.”
The massacre began on November 28 after members of the Tigrayan militia, joined by some locals, attacked Eritrean soldiers, HRW said.
After calling for reinforcements, the Eritreans began “to move around the city, to go from house to house, looking for young men and boys, and executing them.”
“Curtain of denial”
Like Amnesty, HRW said it was impossible to provide an exact death toll, but estimated that “more than 200 civilians were probably killed on November 28 and 29 alone”.
This would make the Aksum massacre one of the deadliest atrocities in the conflict to date.
AFP last week visited the Tabby village of Dengolat to document a separate massacre by Eritrean troops around the same time church officials said they killed 164 civilians.
Since the release of the Amnesty report, Abiy’s government has said federal investigators are investigating “credible allegations” of atrocities and abuse, including in Axum.
But the government also tried to question Amnesty’s findings and accused it of “reinforcing the disinformation and propaganda of the TPLF and its cohorts”.
HRW on Friday called for an urgent United Nations investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tigray.
“Eritrean troops have committed heinous killings in Axum with blind disregard for the lives of civilians,” said Laetitia Bader, HRW director in the Horn of Africa.
“Ethiopian and Eritrean officials can no longer hide behind a curtain of denial, but should leave space for justice and redress, not add to the layers of trauma survivors already face.”
An attempt to gain UN Security Council approval for a statement calling for an end to violence in Tigray and shining a light on the millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance was dropped on Friday evening after objections from India, Russia and especially China, UN diplomats said.
Three diplomats on the council said Ireland, which drafted the statement, decided not to press for approval after objections from the three countries.
The press release was reportedly the first from the most powerful UN body on the Tigray crisis, which is entering its fourth month.
On Tuesday, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned that a “campaign of destruction” was underway, saying at least 4.5 million people were in need of assistance and demanding that Eritrean forces leave Ethiopia.