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Rights groups accuse Ethiopian regional forces of ethnic cleansing in Tigray

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a joint report that abuses committed by Amhara officials and regional special forces and militias during fighting in western Tigray amounted to war crimes and crimes against the humanity. They also accused the Ethiopian army of complicity in these acts.

“Since November 2020, Amhara officials and security forces have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in western Tigray from their homes,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human RightsWatch.

Amhara government spokesman Gizachew Muluneh told Reuters the allegations of abuse and ethnic cleansing in western Tigray were “lies” and “fabricated news”.

Ethiopia’s government and military spokesman, former Amhara special forces commander and West Tigray administrator did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amnesty and HRW said Tigrayan forces also committed abuses during the 17-month war, but that was not the focus of the report.

The report, which is based on 427 interviews with survivors, family members and witnesses, is the most comprehensive assessment to date of abuses during the war in western Tigray.

Western Tigray has seen some of the worst violence in the war, which has pitted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and its allies in the Amhara region against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF dominated the Ethiopian government before Abiy came to power in 2018.

Both Amhara and Tigray claim the area, which is controlled by Amhara forces and the Ethiopian army.

Besides the repeated massacres, the report cites meetings in which Amhara officials discussed plans to deport Tigrayans and the restrictions they imposed on the Tigrayan language as evidence of ethnic cleansing.

Federal authorities failed to investigate allegations of ethnic cleansing, while the national army committed “killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and acts of torture against the Tigrayan population”, according to the report.

Amhara government spokesman Gizachew said regional forces have always upheld the rule of law.

Reuters could not independently verify the details of the report. The news agency has previously reported on massacres committed by Amhara and Tigrayan forces in western Tigray.

In March 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Amhara forces of committing “acts of ethnic cleansing”.

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