INVESTIGATIONS into potential war crimes committed during Ethiopia’s military offensive against the northern Tigray region must be impartial, thorough and transparent, the United Nations said today.
The UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) says an independent probe must take place to determine what took place in Tigray amid reports that civilians were targeted and massacres took place during the operation which started in November.
Between November 9 and 10, a massacre took place in Mai Kadre in western Tigray in which at least 700 men, women and children were brutally executed.
Government forces sought to blame the Tigray People’s Liberation Front for the atrocity. But subsequent investigations, including testimony from eyewitnesses have pointed the finger at the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF).
Those that fled the scene alleged that the killings were carried out by members of Fano – a government-affiliated youth militia from the Amhara region.
One witness said: “Fano from the Amhara region came, then took us all out from our homes. We saw our neighbours killed and slaughtered, in the same way as you cut wood, with an axe and knife.”
According to reports, Ethiopian government forces stood by as Fano fighters went door to door, demanding to see people’s identification papers in order to identify ethnic Tigrayans.
“Youths were sent to kill us. More than 70 [Fano militia] were trying to kill us. We hid ourselves in the fields. They hunted us. On the way many were killed. We passed many dead bodies.
“They checked the IDs of people…if they find someone with Tigrayan origin…[they] slaughter with a knife,” the witness said.
UNOG said in a statement: “If civilians were deliberately killed by a party or parties to the conflict, these killings would amount to war crimes.”
Elections are to be held in June, although Tigray has been excluded from the poll until a state of emergency is lifted in the region.