Amnesty International Warns Of War Crimes In The Tigray Crisis

The United Nations has warned last Friday of war crimes that had been perpetrated on the night of November 9 in Mai-Kadra, Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. This barbarity involves the killing with sharp weapons such as knives and machetes of approximately 500 labourers not subject to the conflict, according to Amnesty International. Witnesses and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed firmly accuse the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, who went on the rampage after federal troops had claimed to have liberated the western part of Tigray. Since thousands of civilians have fled to Sudan, the latter sheltering them in a refugee camp as a result, the conflict fell into a double issue of displacement.

Director of Amnesty International East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, has spoken: “The Tigray People’s Liberation Front commanders and officials must make clear to their forces and their supporters that deliberate attacks on civilians are absolutely prohibited and constitute war crimes.” Indeed, according to a distraught witness, “Those wounded told me they were attacked with machetes, axes and knives. You can also tell from the wounds that those who died were attacked by sharp objects. It is horrible and I am really sad that I witnessed this in my life.” Although Tigrayan officials denied their responsibility when the region’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Agence France-Presse that these accusations were “baseless.” However, photo and video evidence were there to confirm the accusations on Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Article 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court firmly condemn war crimes. Therefore, it is crucial as Ms. Muchena stated that the Ethiopian authorities must immediately and impartially investigate this cruel attack on civilians and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials. The necessity to enforce the respect to international humanitarian law and human rights law in their operation is decisive to the extent that the safety and protection of civilians are fundamental and rightful.

The Tigray crisis finds its roots last September when Tigray had held its own parliamentary election which was defying a government ban on elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called the election illegal. As a result, he carried out an attack against a military installation in the Tigray region where several  soldiers were killed. According to Ahmed, who was willing to send troops in order to make a compromise and bring a sort of calm, the situation deteriorated. The deployment of military in Tigray region threatened the possibility of a civil war in Ethiopia, first resulting on the attack in Mai-Kadra.

In fact, the Tigray’s administration interpret Abiy’s actions as an attempt to build a unitary system of government going against the actual federal arrangement. However, not any discourse could support the TPLF inexcusable actions after they suffered a defeat at the hands of federal Ethiopian Defense Forces. Thus, the top priority remains to stop the fighting in order to prevent any further atrocities. Indeed, more than 11,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed the border into Sudan and aid agency officials have confirmed that hundreds of thousands may follow in their footsteps.