1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ethiopian report documents mass casualties

March 11, 2022

A new report says at least 750 civilians have been killed or executed in Ethiopia's Afar and Amhara regions since July. Both are part of a larger conflict that broke out in northern Tigray region in late 2020.

Women, armed soldiers and a small child in the streets of the city of Dessie in Ethiopia's Amhara region
Women have been subjected to unspeakable cruelties by fighters as Ethiopia descends ever further into conflict Image: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/AA/picture alliance / AA

An Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report released on Friday says at least 750 civilians have been killed in the country's Afar and Amhara regions since July.

The report says both government forces and rebels from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) were responsible for the deaths.

"In parts of Afar and Amhara regions covered by this investigation, at least 346 civilians have been subjected to unlawful and extra-judicial killing by parties to the conflict — mainly by Tigray forces," said Daniel Bekele, the commission's head, at a press conference unveiling the report.

The EHRC says that 403 civilians have been killed and another 309 injured in air raids, drone strikes and heavy artillery fire since the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) launched its July offensive into Afar and Amhara.

The government-affiliated independent rights body also accuses Tigrayan rebels of widespread abuses such as gang rape, torture, looting and the destruction of public facilities like hospitals and schools in the two regions bordering Tigray.

"Tigray Forces committed widespread, cruel, and systematic sexual and gender-based violence including gang rape against women of different ages including girls and elderly women in parts of Afar and Amhara regions under their control," according to the report.

"Tigray forces engaged in abductions and enforced disappearances in a manner that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," it said, while also accusing federal and local security forces in Amhara and Afar of widespread arbitrary detentions.

The report noted that more than 2,400 health facilities, including hospitals, ceased operation in Afar and Amhara "as a result of the destruction, damage and and pillage they sustained." It also said that more than 1,000 schools had been destroyed and another 3,220 damaged.   

Friday's report comes on the heels of a joint UN and EHRC investigation covering November 2020 to June 2021. That report, too, detailed a wide range of abuses, mostly committed by Ethiopian forces and also the Eritrean military, which provided support to Addis Ababa.

Rape in the Ethiopian conflict

Ethiopia's brutal conflict grinds on with no end in sight

Thousands of people have been killed across Africa's second most populous country in the 16 months since conflict broke out between government forces and the TPLF. The UN estimates that more than 2 million people have been displaced by fighting and hundreds of thousands face starvation. More than 9 million, says the international body, are now in need of assistance.

The conflict began in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent forces into Tigray to crush an uprising by the region's ruling TPLF, which had dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades before Abiy took power in 2018.

The prime minister said at the time that the offensive had been launched in response to TPLF attacks on army bases in the region, vowing swift victory. 

Humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ethiopia

Though government forces quickly gained the upper hand in Tigray, the TPLF eventually recaptured the region in June of last year before launching offensives into Afar and Amhara and even threatening the capital Addis Ababa.

On Monday, the UN reported that despite a drop in intensity, at least 304 civilians had been killed in air strikes since November in the north of the country, particularly in Tigray.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the rights and security situation in Ethiopia had "deteriorated significantly" since late November, noting reports of "severe and wide-scale" violations in Afar, Amhara and Tigray.

On Thursday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a bulletin that called the situation in Ethiopia, "highly tense and unpredictable."

The TPLF has previously said it would welcome independent investigations into war atrocities, and accused the EHRC of bias, a charge rejected by the commission.

Prominent independent rights groups such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have consistently documented violence in the conflict since it began, laying blame at the feet of combatants on all sides.

js/msh (AFP, Reuters)