UN slams atrocities carried out in Tigray conflict, as Ethiopia announces state of emergency

The United Nations has condemned atrocities uncovered in a joint investigation into the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region on Wednesday, a day after the country’s government announced a nationwide state of emergency and called on citizens to take up arms against the advance of Tigrayan forces toward its capital.

The investigation — which is the only human rights probe to have been allowed into the blockaded Tigray region since fighting broke out between the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and the Ethiopian government last year — did not lay blame for hostilities and human rights violations at the feet of one group. Instead, it said that all parties to the conflict, including forces from Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara region allied with the government, had “committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” to varying degrees.

Among the violations that may amount to war crimes, the report detailed extra-judicial killings, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians. The joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, or EHRC, is a rare partnership that has raised eyebrows among Tigrayans, human rights groups and other observers, who have flagged concerns about its independence from government influence. But the UN has reaffirmed its impartiality.

“We did not come under pressure from the government,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday during a news conference on the report, adding that restricted access to some areas of Tigray made it difficult for the team to quantify abuses. The investigative team visited several locations, including the Tigray capital Mekelle, but did not appear to go to areas where some of the worst atrocities carried out in the war have been reported.

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