Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

Calls grow for investigation into serious human rights violations in Tigray

Published on: 9 March, 2021

Rights groups and human rights advocates are calling for accountability mechanisms after findings that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by both sides of the conflict in Ethiopia.

In a new Human Rights Watch report released on 5 March, the rights group finds that Eritrean armed forces have massacred a large amount of civilians including children as young as 13. The massacres took place in the historic town of Axum in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in November 2020.

Human Rights Watch estimates that over 200 civilians were most likely killed on November 28-29 alone.

The attacks in Axum followed weeks of fighting between the Ethiopian military and allied forces from the Amhara region and Eritrean troops against forces affiliated with the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (ECHR), Daniel Bekele called for ‘ a more focused and immediate action to put a stop to the alarming and deplorable human rights violations caused by gender-based violence and injuries to children.’

Fisseha Tekle, Ethiopia researcher at Amnesty International said to Al Jazeera: ‘The act of indiscriminate shelling of civilian population areas may amount to a war crime. Moreover Amnesty International has documented widespread and systematic killing of the male population in Axum city, mainly on 28 and 29 November following the fighting between a small band of TPLF militia and Eritrean soldiers.’


According to Tekle the Eritrean soldiers began a killing spree on the streets of Axum and by raiding houses. ‘The extrajudicial execution which continued to the next day targeted the males in the city. Since this was widespread and systematic it might constitute crimes against humanity’ says Tekle.

Tekle adds: ‘Given the gravity of the of the human rights violations in Axum and other serious human rights violations in the context of the conflict in Tigray, Amnesty International is urging for UN-led investigation into Tigray to ensure justice and accountability.’

Although the Ehiopian government announced on 26 November it would thoroughly investigate events in Axum and expressed ‘readiness to collaborate with international human rights expert’, it is not clear whether the Ethiopian government will cooperate with an international investigation.