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US concludes 'war crimes' committed in Ethiopia's Tigray war

March 20, 2023

The US human rights report has no immediate implications but supports calls for prosecuting allegations of war crimes, after finding all parties to the two-year war complicit.

People are seen in front of clouds of black smoke from fires in the aftermath at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on Oct. 20, 2021.
The devastating war is considered among the deadliest in the 21st centuryImage: UGC/AP/picture alliance

The US has concluded that all parties to the two-year conflict which ravaged Ethiopia's northern Tigray region are complicit in "war crimes."

"Those most responsible for atrocities, including those in positions of command, must be held accountable," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as he presented the findings of the report on Monday.

The report has no direct US policy implication. However, it gives weight to previous allegations regarding crimes committed, and calls for prosecution.

Ethiopia's warring parties sign peace deal

What does the report say?

The US annual human rights report found the Ethiopian and Eritrean national armies, the Tigray's People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the forces aligned with the Amhara region all committed war crimes.

It also found all but the TPLF responsible for crimes against humanity, "including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution," Blinken said.

The Amhara forces particularly are accused of "the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and commit[ting] ethnic cleansing in western Tigray."

The war is believed to have internally displaced millions of civilians, as per United Nations figures.

Tigray Internal displaced people (IDPS) Hadinet secondary school, Displaced Camp in Mekelle.
The war is believed to have internally displaced millions of civiliansImage: Million Hailessilasse/DW

"Entire communities were specifically targeted based on their ethnicity. Many of these actions were not random or a mere byproduct of war - they were calculated and deliberate," Blinken said.

Both the Amhara forces and the Eritrean military fought alongside the Ethiopian military and against the TPLF, in what has been described as among the 21st century's deadliest conflicts.

Ethiopia's Tigray conflict

The report comes less than a week after Blinken's visit to Ethiopia. The US top diplomat said he discussed in meetings with both sides the importance of acknowledging the atrocities committed by all parties, as well as accountability.

The conflict, which ripped through Ethiopia's northern region from November 2020 until a peace deal was signed in November 2022, is believed to have left some 500,000 killed in Tigray alone.

A UN commission inquiry pointed last year to evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Ethiopian government forces, Tigray forces and Eritrea's military.

However, the commission accused the Ethiopian forces of starving civilians and using "sexual slavery" as war tools, with the Eritrean forces also accused of the latter.

In Ethiopia's Tigray conflict, rape is used as a weapon

rmt/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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