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Tigray Government Responds to “We Will Erase You from This Land” Report

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Note: The following statement is a response of the Government of Tigray to the Amnesty Internation and Human Rights Watch report on Western Tigray “We Will Erase You from This Land” Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone


Statement on the Joint Report of Amnesty International and Human Rights  Watch on Atrocity Crimes Committed in Western Tigray  

The Government of Tigray is grateful to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW)  for highlighting a litany of atrocities that ethnic Amhara forces, with the full backing of the  Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, committed and continue to commit against Tigrayans in Western  Tigray. The findings of their joint investigation released on April 6, 2022 have rightly shocked the  international community. The exhaustive report, entitled “”We will erase you from this land”:  Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone” catalogues  horrific violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law  (IHRL). Nevertheless, these in-depth findings merely confirm what the people of Tigray have  always known: that our adversaries have committed unimaginable atrocities against Tigrayans to  create new demographic facts on the ground critical in reinforcing their baseless territorial claims  and legitimizing their forcible annexation of Tigray’s constitutionally recognized territory.  

It should be noted that despite the exhaustive nature of this joint investigation and the level of  factual details and corroborating evidence included in the report, the vicious crimes committed  against Tigrayans represent only the tip of the iceberg. Given the obvious obstacles to a genuinely  independent and comprehensive investigation that have been erected by the invading forces, the  report does not even begin to scratch the surface when it comes documenting the true scale of the  barbaric crimes committed against Tigrayans. As long as occupying Amhara forces and their  foreign backers continue to roam free in Western Tigray, grave violations of internationally  recognized human rights will continue unabated, with even ferocious lethality.  

Consequently, the Government of Tigray firmly believes that, given the systematic and widespread  nature of human rights violations as well as the multiplicity of actors involved in all stages of the  genocidal campaign against the people of Tigray, only a genuinely independent investigation can  provide a full accounting of what transpired and continues to transpire. But the integrity of a  comprehensive and credible investigation depends on the preservation of key forensic evidence to  be dug up by mandated entities. In this regard, the international community must condemn in the  strongest possible terms the Amhara regional government’s desecration of the remains of  Tigrayans massacred by Amhara forces for the purpose of destroying evidence, rendering  independent investigations extremely difficult, if not impossible, and evading accountability for  its involvement in this genocidal campaign. 

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It is also worth noting that it has been more than a year since the U.S. State Department designated  what Amhara forces along with the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies were doing to Tigrayans in  Western Tigray ethnic cleansing, though such a designation was, sadly, not followed by robust  remedial or punitive measures. Although the brutality and scope of these crimes have shocked the  collective conscience of the international community, the world has by and large decided to dither  as to whether genocide is taking place in Western Tigray, choosing to deploy euphemistic  expressions that underplay the extent of Tigrayans’ suffering. If the legal determination of  genocide is to come after Tigrayans have been thoroughly wiped out, it would do the people of  Tigray no good. But if the international community’s pledge of “never again” is to mean  something; if the enunciation of lofty humanitarian principles is to signify something; and if the  notion that all lives, regardless of race, creed, and geography are equal is to remain true, then the  international community must rise to the occasion and call what is happening in Tigray by its  proper name: Tigray genocide. Sadly, despite their commendable efforts to highlight the  despicable atrocities committed against the people of Tigray, Amnesty and HRW refrain from  calling the murderous campaign against Tigrayans by its proper name: genocide.  

All the same, still failing to act on these devastatingly exhaustive findings will be a colossal  violation of ethical, moral, and legal obligations on the part of the international community. The  Government of Tigray has from the get-go been communicating to the world that our adversaries  were planning to exterminate the people of Tigray. However, our appeal for preventive diplomacy  and early intervention went unheeded. In previous cases of genocide, such as the one in Rwanda,  the international community expressed regret for its inaction, rationalizing away its refusal to  intervene in terms of failure to see such crimes coming. In the case of Tigray, the warning signs  have been flashing red from the beginning. The international community’s pledge to never allow  another Rwanda along with the well-documented nature of the ongoing genocidal campaign  against Tigray makes the failure to intervene all the more disturbing.  

Once again, the Government of Tigray urges the international community to seriously reconsider  its approach, as all of these violations and abuses occur under its watch and, tragically, despite  repeated early warnings that could have averted catastrophic human rights violations. Given the  extensively documented genocidal campaign against the people of Tigray, including the current  Amnesty and HRW report, and multiple early warning signs that went unheeded, the international  community cannot continue to invoke ignorance as a defense against failure to intervene.  

In spite of the failure to act thus far, it is never too late for the international community to prevent  the rules-based architecture of global governance from being violated at will into obsolescence.  Our adversaries have added the imposition of a cruel, inhumane and morally repugnant siege on  Tigray to their list of atrocious crimes against the people of Tigray. With the siege on Tigray still  intact and over seven million people cut off from humanitarian assistance and other basic  necessities, the choice is stark: stand with humanity and prevent a full-scale extermination project  by the Abiy regime and its allied partners, or make empty rhetorical gestures while cajoling those  who planned, aided, and abetted the commission of some of the worst atrocities in human history.  Even though the criminal intent of all invading forces to annihilate Tigrayans and their rightful  properties has never been in doubt, the international community’s passivity has only emboldened  the perpetrators. 

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It is not mere coincidence that the supposedly independent Ethiopian Human Rights Commission  (EHRC) attempted to cast doubt on the latest report’s credibility in its press release issued on April  6, 2022. As an appendage of the genocidal Abiy regime, the EHRC has echoed the regime’s talking  points. It has been the regime’s dependable instrument in evading accountability by manufacturing  fictitious narratives about rights violations, selectively emphasizing some alleged violations while  ignoring others depending on the identity of the alleged perpetrators and victims. The people and  Government of Tigray have consistently expressed their objections to the EHRC’s involvement in  any investigation of alleged rights violations on account of its lack of impartiality and  independence—principles indispensable for a human rights body. The EHRC has essentially been  serving as the propaganda arm of the genocidal Abiy regime, blaming Tigrayan victims while  exonerating their tormentors.  

What is more, the Government of Tigray has copious amount of evidence that the EHRC, through  its Chairman, Daniel Bekele, is advising the criminal Abiy regime on how to evade accountability  for massive human rights violations. The EHRC’s tattered image confirms the idea that a state appointed entity cannot be an independent and impartial adjudicator of disputes concerning crimes  committed by the appointing state, and ensure a measure of justice for the victims.  

A case in point is the EHRC’s whitewashing of the regime and its Amhara partners’ record in the  massacre of Tigrayans in May-Kadra. The EHRC, fulfilling its mandate as the propaganda arm of  the genocidal Abiy regime, made unconscionably false claims about Tigrayans brutally murdered  for no other reason than their identity. Having had no ability or willingness to conduct independent  investigations into the May-Kadra massacre, the EHRC was reduced to playing its role as an  amateurish propaganda arm of the genocidal regime. By saturating the regime’s media ecosystem  with false claims, the EHRC legitimized the genocidal regime’s mendacity, although the  international community has subsequently found adequate evidence to counter the regime’s  manufactured narratives. Even so, the genocidal regime, along with its domestic partners, and the  EHRC have, through the spread of lies, muddied the waters, thereby creating the impression that  hundreds of Tigrayans viciously murdered are, in fact, the perpetrators of phantom crimes. In the  Orwellian world in which these vicious criminals inhabit, up is down and down is up. Similarly,  victims are criminals and criminals are victims. The EHRC has, in short, betrayed its foundational  mandate, and fatally undermined its credibility and, thus, should not be taken seriously as an  institution capable of adjudicating disputes with a degree of impartiality and independence that is  the hallmark of its counterparts elsewhere.  

Furthermore, despite the documentation of multiple heinous crimes in Western Tigray, the  disturbing references to “contested areas” and “disputed territory” will surely incentivize the  invading forces to ramp up their repression of Tigrayans as they seek to rid the area of any vestiges  of Tigrayans ever having been there and legitimize their illegal annexation. In fact, in its April 7  response to the joint report, the Abiy regime sought to have it both ways. On the one hand, it made  references to a constitutional process for adjudicating territorial disputes. On the other hand, it  refers to Western Tigray as Wolkait, adopting the same name as the Amhara expansionist forces.  Furthermore, in a sign of where its loyalties lie, the Abiy regime castigates Amnesty and Human  Rights Watch for their putative reliance on the testimony of “some groups”, which in their coded  parlance is a clear reference to Tigrayans whom they hold in contempt. What this genocidal regime 

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is getting at is that people belonging to a community subjected to vicious mass murder should  never be allowed to provide testimony about their ordeals, and that victims and criminals should  be treated equally.  

The Government of Tigray has been consistent in its insistence on an independent investigation to  be conducted by an impartial international entity as the only viable mechanism for getting to the  bottom of all atrocities committed during the war on Tigray. In this regard, unlike the genocidal  Abiy regime, the Government of Tigray has fully accepted the mandate and legitimacy of the  International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia established by the UN Human  Rights Council. We urge the international community to compel the Abiy regime to allow the  Commission to do its work without any hindrance. The genocidal regime and its criminal partners  cannot continue to assert their innocence vis-à-vis alleged rights violations, levy countervailing  accusations against Tigray, and still strenuously object to independent investigations. The  international community should not fail the people of Tigray again and again. It has failed  Tigrayans by not intervening early to prevent massive rights violations from being committed. It  should not fail them now by not holding the perpetrators of heinous crimes accountable. In this  regard, the international community should condemn the illegal exhumation of the remains of  Tigrayans massacred by Amhara Special Forces, Amhara Militia, the vigilante group Fano, the  Ethiopian National Defense Forces, and the Eritrean Defense Forces in Western Tigray Zone as  an act of evidence tampering. 

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