Statement on the Joint Investigation Report of Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch
Bahirdar – Ethiopia
The Regional Government of Amhara complements national and international partners and welcomes their commendable endeavor to resolve the conflict in northern Ethiopia and bring about sustainable peace in the country through dialog, compromise and a system of accountability for serious human rights violations.
The Regional Government particularly appreciates national and international human rights institutions for their work in investigating and documenting human rights violations alleged to have been committed in relation to the war. In this regard, the Amhara Regional Government extends its gratitude to Amnesty International (AI) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for their effort to uncover possible human rights abuses alleged to have been committed by various actors in this conflict.
However, the Amhara Regional Government expresses its grave concerns on the recent AI and HR Report on the Joint Investigation and would like to publicly record its objection to the biased purported findings. The Regional Government finds that the Report makes swift and far-reaching unsubstantiated conclusions merely by relying on unreliable methodology for a fact-finding of this nature. The Report further makes unrealistic recommendations on the basis of factually inaccurate and contradictory information and wrong assumptions. It is also unfortunate that the Report takes a partial and ill-informed position on a controversial matter relating to internal boundaries of administrative regions of a sovereign nation, blames everything on one party, the Amharas- while they have been the primary victims of Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF)’s and seeks to absolve TPLF of responsibility for its erg oregions crimes.
In terms of methodology, the Regional Government considers that the methodology employed by HRW and AI is not reliable and credible to support the purported findings of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report indicates that it relies on a total of 445 remotely-conducted telephone interviews with alleged victims, family members, and other unspecified sources. It is also stated that HRW and AI undertook research missions in Sudan to gather information from individuals who fled to Sudan at the start of the war.
It is regrettable that the two organizations jointly concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed just exclusively relying on phone interviews carried out remotely and information collected from individuals who are suspected of having involved in the Mai Kadra Massacre of 6-9 November 2020. It is important to recall that Amnesty International’s own report of 9 November 2020 revealed and later confirmed by the Joint Investigation Report of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission that the first ethnically-targeted mass killings were committed by a Tigrayan informal militia group called ‘Samri’, which massacred hundreds of ethnic Amharas in the first few days of the conflict. It is this same group which later fled to Sudan to seek ‘refuge’ and is now being referred to in the Report as a source of evidence for the joint investigation.
The report also contradicts itself by stating that Amhara forces were blocking routes to Sudan for fleeing Tigrayans. But at the same time, claiming that Tigrayans were forced to leave the Welkait, Kafta Humera, and Tegede districts into Sudan and Tigray. Astonishingly, the Report also asserts that “ethnic cleansing” happened in those areas from January-February 2021 but still claims that thousands of Tigrayans were forcefully removed from those areas again later in June-December that same year. If indeed there was “ethnic cleansing” as it was alleged in January/February, where did those thousands of Tigrayans alleged to have been forcefully displaced between June and December 2021 come from?!
Furthermore, despite the fact that AI and HRW claim that they do not take a position on who should control a territory, the organizations’ reference to Welkait, Kafta Humera, and Tegede as “Western Tigray”, and using the Tigregna word “Tsegede” instead of its proper Amharic name “Tegede” throughout the report are clear evidence of their pronouncement and position on the status of these areas. The Amhara Regional Government regrets that HRW and AI are involved in deciding on internal boundary arrangements of a sovereign state.
The Regional Government underlines that these areas have always been Amhara land until they were forcefully annexed by TPLF in the 1990s into Tigray and as the Report itself conceded, their demographic feature was systematically altered by settling thousands of ethnic Tigrayans in those areas and forcefully dislocating Amharas from their ancestral lands.
It is also regrettable that by stating “Some Walqayte and Amhara residents in the newly established Western Tigray Zone viewed these changes as an annexation”, the Report attempts to downplay the historical grievances of hundreds of thousands of Amharas and their perennial demand for the respect for their constitutionally-guaranteed identity rights and of self-administration including the right to speak, study and be administered in their mother-tongue, which were violently suppressed by TPLF for over three decades.
Surprisingly, while the Report also acknowledges the oppression of other groups in Ethiopia by TPLF, nowhere does it mention the extreme sufferings, genocidal crimes and scourge of Amharas that they endured in the hands of TPLF during its 27 years of power and in the course of its military adventures into the region between June-December 2021.Although the Report states that the temporal scope of the investigation was between November 2020 and December 2021, it is unfortunate that AI and HRW found it convenient to disregard the massacres of thousands of ethnic Amharas, gang rapes of mothers and children, lootings and acts of pillage by TPLF forces in Chenna, Qobo, Woldia, Dessie and in many other parts of the Amhara region, which were committed within the same period and regularly reported by different national and international media.
The Report further goes at length to exonerate TPLF from its responsibility for the start of this war and for the war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity that it has committed on Amharas and the people of Afar. It is on public record that this war began when TPLF, with sheer arrogance, launched what it called a “pre-emptive strike” against the Ethiopian National Defense Forces. This is confirmed by the findings of the Report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the findings of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Joint Investigation.
However, the Report made no mention of this important fact and rather portrayed Amharas and the Regional Government as the main constituency of the war and the only ones to take all the blame. The Amhara Regional Government sees this as part of a coordinated attempt by TPLF and its entourages to mislead the international community by painting the victims as oppressors and through a campaign of disinformation- a classical way of evading accountability.
Despite decades of systemic dehumanization, killings and marginalization Amharas suffered and the continued acts of TPLF’s aggression, the people and Regional Government of Amhara sympathize with the people of Tigray who have also been held hostage to the myopic interests of the TPLF and are currently suffering a great deal from the horrific effects of the war. The people of Amhara have always believed that Tigrayans are brothers and sisters, with a common heritage interwoven by centuries of shared history, culture and religions.
It is also the view of the Amhara Regional Government that the Tigrayan people have similar aspirations for equality, democracy and development as their neighbors and for this, deserve peace and harmony. As the lived experiences of the last year have shown all of us, the only certain things about war are death, human suffering, and destruction. Accordingly, the Amhara Regional Government calls on the people of Tigray and the international community to reject and condemn the perilous path of war that the TPLF has chosen to impose its oppressive will on others.
The Amhara Regional Government also reiterates its commitment to support all international efforts to end this devastating war and bring about a lasting peace in the country. In this endeavor, it expresses its usual preparedness to assist and cooperate with all partners to ensure that humanitarian reliefs reach all people affected by the war in Amhara, Afar and Tigray regions. It should be noted, though, that the Amhara region has never blocked humanitarian access into Tigray in the past or presently. It is TPLF itself which has invaded and still remains in occupation existing routes into and parts of Amhara bordering Tigray such as Waghimira zone, Alamata, Korem and Adirkai. As long as TPLF leaves those areas, and opens the routes it has blocked, the Amhara Region does not have any reason to impede humanitarian access into Tigray.
Finally, as peace cannot be ensured in the absence of accountability, the Amhara Regional Government will continue to work together with federal authorities to hold accountable all individuals involved in the commission of crimes in the course of the war. In this effort, the Regional Government will seriously look into the alleged serious human rights violations indicated in the joint investigation report of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and investigate and ensure accountability for all human rights abuses or crimes that may have been committed within territories under its jurisdiction.
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