Civilians still victims of Tigray War, one year after peace

tigray

A year after a peace agreement was reached in the conflict in the Tigray region, ongoing fighting and reported atrocities against civilians persist in northern Ethiopia, as highlighted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday. The organisation urged the international community not to turn a blind eye to the situation.

In November 2, 2022, the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray authorities, who had previously rebelled, reached an agreement in Pretoria, marking an end to one of the deadliest conflicts globally. Despite the progress observed, including the cessation of hostilities, the resumption of humanitarian aid, and the gradual re-establishment of essential services in Tigray, HRW Africa indicated that the conflict has intensified in other regions of the country. Former perpetrators of abuses are reportedly repeating their actions with impunity.

The Pretoria agreement fractured the alliance between the federal government and the Amhara militias, leading to escalated tensions and open conflict in the Amhara region in April, triggered by the federal army’s attempt to disarm them. Amidst a declared state of emergency in August, HRW documented numerous civilian casualties, mass arrests, and significant damage to civilian infrastructure in these regions. The Ethiopian authorities have employed repressive measures similar to those seen during the Tigray conflict, including restricting access to journalists and observers, internet blackouts, and intermittent access to the mobile network in combat zones.

In Tigray, Eritrean troops, still present in border areas, are accused, along with Ethiopian army, of continued atrocities, including murder, sexual violence, kidnapping, looting, and obstructing humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, in the inaccessible western part of the region, Amhara forces, notably the Fano militias, are reportedly engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing by forcibly expelling Tigrayans, defying the evacuation outlined in the agreement.

HRW expressed concern over the lack of specific details within the Pretoria agreement regarding the prosecution of crimes committed, particularly in terms of investigation mechanisms. They remain sceptical about the promised transitional justice process by Addis Ababa.

HRW criticised the perceived inaction of the UN Human Rights Council member states, resulting in the termination of a UN Commission of Inquiry’s mandate in September, despite the evident necessity for independent investigations and international oversight.

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