Since the start of the armed conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in November 2020, Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations have documented war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the Tigray region by all parties to the conflict. In July, fighting expanded to the neighboring Amhara region, leading to large-scale displacement, with 3.7 million people in the region in need of humanitarian assistance.
Tigrayan forces summarily executed dozens of civilians in two towns they controlled in Ethiopia’ northern Amhara region between August 31 and September 9, 2021, Tigrayan forces entered the village of Chenna and engaged in sporadic and at times heavy fighting with Ethiopian federal forces and allied Amhara militias. “Tigrayan forces showed brutal disregard for human life and the laws of war by executing people in their custody,” said Lama Fakih, crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch.
Chenna residents interviewed provided the names of 39 civilians they said Tigrayan forces summarily executed while occupying the village, although they only saw 26 of them being killed. In addition, Human Rights Watch obtained three lists of 57, 48, and 37 names, drawn up by a local official and two priests who had each overseen the funerals of about 30 people after the fighting had ended.
They said the civilians on the lists were killed between August 31 and September 4, although they did not know how each person had been killed. Some names appeared on two or all three of the lists and, removing duplicates, the total number of names comes to 74. In addition, 9 names from the Human Rights Watch interviews do not appear on any of the three lists.
In September and October, Human Rights Watch remotely interviewed 36 people, including witnesses to killings, victims’ relatives and neighbors, religious figures, and doctors about fighting and abuses in and around Chenna Teklehaimanot village (Chenna) and the town of Kobo. Nineteen people described seeing Tigrayan fighters in Chenna and Kobo summarily executing a total of 49 people who they said were civilians, providing 44 names.
On December 4, Human Rights Watch sent TPLF authorities a summary of findings requesting comment but received no response.
The UN Human Rights Council should urgently establish an independent international mechanism to investigate abuses in the Tigray conflict, which has since expanded into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The investigation should include alleged summary executions and other serious violations of the laws of war by Tigrayan forces, identify those responsible at all levels, and preserve evidence for future accountability, Human Rights Watch said.