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Archive for May 29th, 2021

Tigray: Call it Genocide, Prosecute Its Leaders and End It

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

The Tigrayan people should not, must not, wait for one century, one year or even one more day for the world to acknowledge their plight and rescue them from obliteration.

On 26 May 2021, US President Joe Biden issued a bold statement on the raging crisis in Ethiopia, warning of escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions, including the “large-scale human rights abuses” and “widespread sexual violence” taking place in Tigray. But he stopped short of calling the appalling atrocities in Tigray by their true name: genocide.

Just one month earlier, Biden had righted an historic wrong by pronouncing the attempted extermination of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 to have been a “genocide.” The Armenians had waited 106 years for this rhetorical symbol of justice. The Nazis’ attempt to eradicate the Jewish people was not recognised until it was too late to do anything about it. Rwandans had to wait four full years to hear President Bill Clinton express “deep regret” that he had not declared the massacre in 1994 of a million of their compatriots a genocide. Biden’s condemnation sends a message of solidarity to Ethiopians everywhere and to the people of Tigray in particular. But it also risks igniting false hopes that the international community will now take decisive action to prevent the erasure of an entire nation.

For almost seven months now, the armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea, aided and abetted by extremist militias from the neighbouring Amhara ethnic group, have been engaged in a well-planned, deliberate and systematic genocide of the Tigrayan people. The government in Addis Ababa claims that the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) started the fighting with a surprise attack on a military garrison and that they must be brought to justice. The TPLF claims that a pre-emptive strike was necessary to disrupt the government’s pre-meditated war plans. But it no longer matters who fired the first shot or whether the ossified TPLF leadership should have anticipated that armed conflict could be used to justify their people’s extermination. Between November 2020 and March 2021, the University of Ghent, in Belgium, documented more than 150 massacres across Tigray, including victims as young as two years old and as old as 93; the killing has continued unabated.

Despite systematic government attempts to restrict humanitarian access and impose a media blackout, some courageous journalists, aid workers and activists have succeeded in reporting these atrocities. But most of Tigray remains inaccessible to outsiders and communications are severely restricted, so the vast majority of these crimes remain unknown and undocumented. As a medical doctor from Tigray who served in the regional capital of Mekelle during the first four months of the genocide before fleeing my country one month ago, I have watched this violence unfolding with my own eyes and I bear both personal and professional witness.

Mass murder is not enough for the masterminds of the atrocities in Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Their armed forces and allied militias seek to exterminate the Tigrayan people by inducing mass starvation; they are burning crops and seeds, cutting trees, destroying agricultural implements, killing animals, and destroying small dams and irrigation canals, to cripple the agricultural sector. The troops grind any remaining foodstuff they find into the dirt or manure with their boots to make it inedible. In late May, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock estimated that “over 90% of the harvest was lost due to looting, burning, or other destruction, and that 80% of the livestock in the region were looted or slaughtered.”

I have watched this violence unfolding with my own eyes and I bear both personal and professional witness.

Reports by UN agencies and Tigray’s interim administration assert that more than 2.3 million people in the region are internally displaced, and 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. According to UNICEF, the number of severely malnourished children in Tigray has gone up nearly 90 per cent in the past week. Uncounted numbers of people have already died of hunger. But the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean Army, and Amhara forces are determined to block humanitarian efforts, impeding and obstructing access by aid agencies. At least eight aid workers have been killed in the last six months.

The coordinated ethnic cleansing by Ethiopia and Eritrean troops in collaboration with Amhara militias also involves erasing all traces of Tigrayan identity, a heritage that dates back to the Axumite kingdom of the 2nd Century CE. To this end, they have decreed the unrestricted use of mass rape, sexual slavery, and the traumatic sterilisation of Tigrayan women as instruments of war. As a doctor I have seen the unspeakable suffering of the victims of such sexual violence, including gratuitous mutilation and torture.

But these war crimes have a much broader and equally sinister strategic purpose: the total annihilation of Tigrayans as a people. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, some 1.2 million inhabitants of Western Tigray have been driven from their homes, many of them killed or incarcerated in concentration camps. The occupying authorities have officially annexed these territories and encouraged ethnic Amharas from Gojjam and Gonder regions to claim the lands, properties and assets abandoned by their rightful Tigrayan owners. While men are killed or interned, Tigrayan women and children under seven are forced to take Amhara identity if they wish to remain in their homes. Women are also forced to serve as concubines for Amhara militia so that they no longer bear children of Tigrayan descent. National census exercises in 1978 and 1994 indicated that the inhabitants of these zones were overwhelmingly Tigrigna speakers. If ethnic cleansing continues at this rate, Tigrayans could become a minority in their homeland before the end of this year.

The coordinated ethnic cleansing by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in collaboration with Amhara militias also involves erasing all traces of Tigrayan identity.

Tigray’s unique contribution to Ethiopia’s national heritage is also being methodically obliterated. The ancient monasteries of Debredamo, Dengolat St Mary, and the Al Nejashi Mosque – possibly the oldest in Africa – have all been vandalised. Aksum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been razed and pillaged by Eritrean and Ethiopian troops.

The progress of this genocidal campaign beyond Tigray is hard to assess, but – as the Associated Press reported on 29 April – there is no question that Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia, and even beyond its borders, have been subjected to profiling, arbitrary arrest and detention, travel restrictions, dismissal from government posts and transfer to concentration camps. Tens of thousands of Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force have also been disarmed and detained on the grounds that they might pose some undefined security threat. Some have refused orders to return to Ethiopia from peacekeeping missions abroad for fear of persecution.

In addition to President Biden’s statement, the United States government and the European Union have both called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray, and have announced plans to impose travel restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials responsible for these atrocities, with the possibility of further sanctions to follow.

These are welcome measures, but they are in no way commensurate with the scale of the crimes being committed against the people of Tigray, the depth of human suffering or the depravity of men who seek to exterminate a nation of more than 6 million people.

If ethnic cleansing continues at this rate, Tigrayans could become a minority in their homeland before the end of this year.

Genocides, like other core international crimes, do not simply “happen” or “unfold”: they are premeditated, prepared, and perpetrated by individual leaders and their followers. The killers seek to dehumanise and displace the blame onto their victims, not only to make it easier for their forces to kill, but also to confound the international community, create confusion and buy time for the long, laborious work of mass murder.

As a medical professional, as a witness, and as a husband, father, brother, and son, I cannot accept that the dead, the maimed and the destitute survivors in Tigray be stripped of their humanity. I have tended to their horrifying wounds, shared their suffering, and buried their dead. Some sympathetic observers have encouraged me to publicly describe their injuries in detail so as to elicit global revulsion, but I believe that to do so would be a second desecration of these victims. No people, whatever the alleged sins of their erstwhile political masters, should ever have to face extermination like vermin or pests at the hands of their own government.

The Tigrayan people should not, must not, wait for one century, one year or even one more day for the world to acknowledge their plight and rescue them from obliteration. President Biden and other world leaders have a moral and legal duty to call this evil in Tigray by its true name, genocide, and to identify and prosecute those ultimately responsible for this most heinous of crimes – Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki. And then to act with ruthless efficiency and determination to end the genocide.



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Ethiopia-Tigray: Call for Referring Conflict-Related Sexual Violence to ICC

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

Although gender-based violence is largely underreported, at least 22,500 survivors of sexual violence in Tigray are estimated to seek clinical management of rape services. (UNFPA, 2021).

The perpetrators allegedly are Eritrean troops (33%), Ethiopian ENDF (44%), both Eritrean and ENDF (6%), and Amhara militia (6%). (Insecurity Insight, 30 March 2021)

This presentation was made at the Conference “Voices From Tigray: Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Against Women In Tigray”, organized by European External Programme With Africa (EEPA) on May 25th, 2021.

By Reinhard Jacobsen

The scale and brutality of crimes of conflict-related sexual violence against women committed in Tigray have drawn widespread condemnation from around the world.

It was no surprise that the Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA) focussed on that theme in the Webinar organised on May 25. EEPA is a Belgium-based centre of expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications, and networks, specialised in issues of peacebuilding, refugee protection, and resilience in the Horn of Africa.

The importance of the Webinar also lies in the fact that there is massive underreporting of sexual violence against women. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated in April that 22,500 women would require support as a consequence of conflict-related sexual violence.

The shame and fear associated with the violence and perpetrators acting with impunity and the destruction of local administration and hospitals compound the problem of underreporting. In fact, whatever little is being reported is only the tip of the iceberg.

Many have described conflict-related sexual violence as a weapon of war used against the civilian population, and committed, in part, with genocidal intent.

The perpetrators are said to be the Eritrean troops with a heavy presence in Tigray under the so-called National Service, a form of nation-wide indefinite slavery, which the UN Special Commission of Inquiry has defined as crimes against humanity.

The Commission has recommended the practice to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The other perpetrators mentioned are the Amhara and Ethiopian National Defence.

After months of denial, Nobel laureate Prime Minister Abiy has meanwhile admitted that Eritrean troops as present and identified these as potential perpetrators of sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls.

The Webinar meeting was chaired by Julia Duncan-Cassell, former Minister of Gender in Liberia. In her concluding remarks, she asked all African women in leadership to step up their voice to stop the harrowing perpetration of rape as a weapon of war in Tigray.

Duncan-Cassell told the Tigray women who gave their testimony in the webinar that African women were sharing their pain and asked Africa and the world to end the violence against women.

She said that former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, now African Union Envoy to the Horn, is following the situation closely and closely working with US UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to address it.

Duncan-Cassell closed the webinar by stating that “The perpetration of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence has not diminished and is spreading across the Horn. There must be concerted and coordinated international pressure and targeted sanctions. These atrocities must come to an end, and soldiers and their commanders must be prosecuted.”

She called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Tigray, particularly those from Eritrea, the referral of the deployment by Eritrea of National Service in a foreign jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court, and all parties in Tigray to end with immediate effect the impunity of the use of Rape as a Weapon of War.

In an opening keynote address, a Member of the European Parliament said that girls and women being raped in the Tigray region are reportedly aged between 8 and 72. The rapes are being carried out in front of family, husbands, and children. The rapes can last for days, and often inflict life-threatening injuries.

She referred to Sir Mark Andrew Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, describing the attacks in Eritrea, “as a means to humiliate, terrorize, and traumatize an entire population today and into the next generation.”

“I have said many times, it is beyond comprehension that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has overseen such destruction, tyranny and deprivation,” she added.

Sometimes the world views war as the theatre of men. But it is often women that pay an equal or greater price behind the scenes: Loss of economic empowerment, rape, forced prostitution, starvation, backsteps in social equality, she added.

“Sexual violence against women and girls has been used as a weapon of war for centuries. The lasting damage clear to see. We saw it with the women of Rwanda, South Korea, Yugoslavia; and these are just the examples of the last century.

“But the inaction of the international community makes it seem as though we have learned nothing. President Biden, the G7, the UN, and the EU have all condemned and expressed concern over what is happening.

“But words are not enough to make the suffering of women stop. Condemnation is important, but it’s not enough to make families sleep soundly tonight in Tigray.

“There must be concerted and coordinated international pressure and targeted sanctions. These atrocities must come to an end, and soldiers and their commanders must be prosecuted.”

In the Webinar, women from Tigray presented their harrowing ordeal, a third of rapes executed as gang rapes, over multiple days, in public, in front of family members including their children, their genitals burned or filled with foreign objects including burning sticks and relatives forced to perpetrate rape on Tigray women. The testimonies said that witnesses of the crimes committed and the children including babies of the rape victims were killed in the violence.

Selam Kidane, an Eritrean human rights advocate, told the conference that Eritrea is committing troops in Tigray that have suffered under the plight of National Service, a form of slavery, which has been qualified as a Crime against Humanity and she begged the international community to refer Eritrea to the ICC for the crimes committed by Eritrea on foreign soil in Tigray.

Mariam Basajja presented the Africa Women for Peace in the Horn Initiative expressing those young women from the entire continent stood by the women in Tigray

Tigray Human Rights advocate, Meaza Gidey, called the rape against women in Tigray a genocide: “Women are raped because they are Tigrayan, to cleanse the bloodline. The world has all the facts. I call on all relevant actors to listen to the cries of the innocent women of Tigray. They are not only being raped but they are also starved to death.”

Malgorzata Tarasiewicz, Director from East-West Women Network based in Poland, said the international community had all the tools it needed to respond to the situation in Tigray where rape is used as a weapon of war and that it should respond without delay.



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Ethiopia Tigray Crisis: Warnings of Genocide & Famine

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

👉 ገብርኤል 👉 ማርያም 👉 ኡራኤል 👉 ጊዮርጊስ 👉 ተክለ ሐይማኖት 👉 ዮሴፍ 👉 መድኃኔ ዓለም

👉 Why Ethiopia Genocide Debate May be A Distraction

The patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church recently ignited controversy when he said that genocide was being committed in the northern Tigray region.

His Holiness Abuna Mathias – an ethnic Tigrayan himself – explained that since the outbreak of conflict in November between the Ethiopian military and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), his “mouth had been sealed, unable to speak from fear”.

Abuna Mathias‘ emotional statement resonated with many Tigrayans, who are deeply traumatized by the violence in their region. More than two million people have been displaced in the conflict.

Through protests in capitals around the world and via social media, members of the diaspora have united to campaign against what they insist is genocide.

The Ethiopian government rejects reports of mass atrocities as exaggerated and politically motivated. Breaking with the traditional hierarchy of the Ethiopian church, the Orthodox Synod distanced itself from the patriarch’s statement.

In popular parlance, genocide is the crime of crimes – the very worst on the books. It evokes a special outrage – campaigners against genocide call for exceptional international responses, including military intervention, to stop it.

The term was invented by Rafael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent, to describe the uniquely terrible crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against entire peoples.

It won a special place in the international statute books when the United Nations formalized the Genocide Convention in 1948.

Hate speech

In the trials of high-ranking Nazi officials at Nuremberg, prosecutors had brought charges of crimes against humanity – defined as widespread and systematic violations perpetrated by a state or a state-like entity.

Genocide is a different kind of crime, defined by the perpetrator’s intent: “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.”

Until now, human rights organizations have said that crimes against humanity may have been committed in Tigray. That may change.

Some Ethiopian media have expressed ethnic animosity towards Tigrayans, with derogatory language used indiscriminately to tar all Tigrayans with the alleged misdeeds of the TPLF, which was in power at a federal level for more than 25 years and had a bitter fall-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after he took office in 2018, resulting in the conflict in its stronghold of Tigray.

Dehumanizing words such as “daylight hyenas” and “unfamiliar others” are used to foment hatred.

There are reports of ethnically selective purges of Tigrayans from government employment and the army, and restrictions on their travel, businesses and residence.

These violations aren’t in themselves as heinous as murder, rape, or starvation but they would be important to building a case for genocide.

There have also been numerous reports of mass killings in Tigray, by all sides.

The definitive determination of whether it is genocide would be a guilty verdict in the trial of a high-level perpetrator – preferably in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But for the ICC to take on a case would require a decision by the UN Security Council, which is highly unlikely given African suspicions of the court and the objections of China and Russia.

Ex-Ethiopian leader convicted of genocide

Another possibility is the prosecution of an Ethiopian who is dual national of another country – perhaps for statements in the media that could be taken as incitement. Or there could be an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate by a state that has universal jurisdiction, such as France or Belgium.

Ethiopia has itself previously prosecuted genocide. Its 1957 penal code prohibits genocide with an important variation – it includes “political groups” among those protected.

This is a legal curiosity that arose because Ethiopia used one of Lemkin’s early drafts for the UN Convention, before the Soviet Union insisted that targeting political groups shouldn’t be included.

Lemkin himself was particularly concerned with food deprivation as a tool of genocide.

In his book Axis Rule he devoted more space and attention to Nazi policies of limiting food rations to starvation levels than to gas chambers and killing squads.

The term “starvation crimes”, coined by Bridget Conley, is becoming common usage for the varieties of ways in which hunger is used as a weapon of war, oppression and punishment.

The UN, US and UK have all warned this week of an impending large-scale famine in Tigray. The dire situation is the result of “starvation crimes” including pillage, forced displacement, destruction of food, water and health facilities, widespread rape that prevents survivors from caring for themselves and their children, and obstruction of humanitarian aid.

Thirty years ago, when Ethiopia set up a Special Prosecutor’s Office to try officials of the ousted military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, it was decided to use genocide charges for political killings.

The main focus was the “Red Terror” of 1977-78 when the regime murdered tens of thousands of young people for their real or suspected political alignments.

Mengistu was convicted in absentia for genocide on this basis in 2007 – 40 years after his most egregious crimes.

Campaigners don’t want to wait until judges hand down a verdict. When proof of genocide is finally forthcoming it is by definition too late to prevent it.

To get around the problem, activists and diplomats have coined new words to describe patterns of ethnically targeted atrocities.

As Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s, the term “ethnic cleansing” was coined.

This isn’t codified in law – and acts such as targeted killings and rapes and forced displacement that make up ethnic cleansing aren’t distinct from the actions that could constitute genocide.

An internal US state department report referred to “ethnic cleansing” in western Tigray earlier this year.

Ten years after the Yugoslav war, the former US special envoy for war crimes, David Scheffer, introduced the term “atrocity crimes” to try to short-circuit what he saw as fruitless legal debates on what counted as genocide.

He argued that “governments and international organizations… should not be constrained from acting by the necessity of a prior legal finding that the crime of genocide in fact has occurred or is occurring”.

There’s also a grey area of localized, ethnically targeted violence. This kind of conflict is rife across Ethiopia, involving many different communities.

There are contested boundaries between ethnically defined regions and disputes over the status of minorities within regions dominated by another group.

Violence of this kind has recently increased, with ethnic Oromos, Amharas, Somalis and Gumuz, among those swapping accusations of atrocities.

Spokespeople for these groups commonly portray themselves as victims of genocide.

Crying “genocide” sounds the alarm but doesn’t spell out a clear course of action.

The peril of a singular focus on “genocide” is illustrated by the international campaign against atrocities in Darfur in 2004.

Activists focused on calling the atrocities genocide: they assumed that once their governments designated it as such, they would be required to send troops.

One protester’s sign at a Washington DC rally read: “Out of Iraq, Into Darfur!”

In fact there’s no such obligation. An inquiry sponsored by the US state department did indeed find that the Sudanese army and associated Janjaweed militia had committed acts of genocide.

Then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell accepted the report, but said that this finding did not change US policy, which prioritized humanitarian aid, a peacekeeping mission, and a peace agreement.

Bruising genocide debates

In Darfur, the debate over whether the atrocities were or weren’t genocide became a distraction from dealing with what actually could be done to stop the atrocities.

The US designation of “genocide” was purely symbolic, and when the UN’s International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur stopped short of calling it a genocide, the Sudanese foreign ministry trumpeted a victory, overlooking the inquiry’s careful wording that “crimes no less serious and heinous than genocide” had been committed.

The prosecutor of the ICC later issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir, which included charges of genocide. Bashir was imprisoned by the Sudanese authorities two years ago after he was overthrown, but he hasn’t been handed to the ICC.

The trial of a militia leader, Ali Abdel Rahman “Kushayb” opened on 24 May at the ICC on 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes – but not genocide, which lawyers suspect will be very hard to prove.

If Bashir does face trial at the ICC, prosecutors will also have to weigh whether to proceed with genocide charges.

Today’s senior officials in Washington DC include veterans of those bruising debates from Yugoslavia to Darfur.

At Thursday’s hearing of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Tigray was compared to Darfur.

At the hearing, a state department official said they were considering financial sanctions against Ethiopian officials allegedly responsible for failing to stop atrocities in Tigray.

The state department also said that a legal team was investigating whether the atrocities amounted to crimes against humanity.

But there’s little appetite for considering whether it is genocide, fearing it will inflame emotions that would impede, not facilitate, solutions.



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Ethiopia: Schools in Tigray Used as Military Bases: HRW

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 29, 2021

💭 በትግራይ ያሉ ትምህርት ቤቶች እንደ ወታደራዊ ቤዝ እያገለገሉ ነው። ሂውማን ራይትስ ዋች/ HRW.

የትግራይን ሕፃናት መድፈር፣ ለስደት መዳርግና መግደል አልበቃቸውም ትምህርት ቤቶቻቸውንም ልክ ቅኝ ቀዢዎቹ ኢዶማውያን ኃይሎች በቅኝ ግዛቶቻቸው ሲያደርጉት እንደነበረው የጦር እና የሴቶች መድፈሪያ ቤዝ አድርገውባቸዋል። 😠😠😠 😢😢😢

አረመኔው የኦሮሞ አገዛዝ ወደፊት መገንባት ለሚያስባት እስላማዊት ኦሮሚያ ከበስተሰሜን የቴዎድሮስ ክርስቲያናዊ ኃይል እንዳይመጣበትና የወረረውንም የአክሱም/ኢትዮጵያን ግዛት እንዳያስመልስ በመፍራት ሃምሳ ዓመት ዘልቆ በማሰብ ተግቶ በመሥራት ላይ ነው። ይህን አስቀድመው ማየት በተሳናቸው፣ ዛሬም፤ “ጂሃድ ጃዋር እኮ ለእኛ ጾመልን!” እያሉ ዕድልና በረከታቸውን ለቀንደኛ አህዛብ ጠላታቸው እያጋሩ የወገኖቻችንን የሰቆቃና ስቃይ ጊዜ የሚያራዝሙባቸው፤ ዛሬም እንኳ መንቃት ባቃታቸው ግብዝ ሰሜናውያን እጅግ አፈርኩ፣ ለመቶ ሰላሳ ዓመታት መልሶ መላልሶ ወደ ጭቃ! በእውነቱ ደሜ ፈላ! 😢😢😢

The United Nations’ refugee agency is expressing growing concern about the crisis in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

There are reports hundreds of refugees have been taken from displacement camps by soldiers.

Schools have also not been spared, with Human Rights Watch accusing government troops of using a high school as a military base.

Meanwhile, the United States, a strong ally of Ethiopia’s government for years, is growing frustrated with the scale of the fighting and widespread reports of sexual violence.

The US Senate has unanimously called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and Secretary of State Antony Blinken says what is happening amounts to ethnic cleansing.


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