Tigrayan forces summarily executed dozens of civilians in two towns they controlled in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region between August 31 and September 9, 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
HRW urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to create an international inquiry into the abuses committed by warring parties in the expanded Tigray conflict.
HRW said that on August 31, “Tigrayan forces entered the village of Chenna and engaged in sporadic and at times heavy fighting with Ethiopian federal forces and allied Amhara militias. Chenna residents told Human Rights Watch that over the next five days Tigrayan forces summarily executed 26 civilians in 15 separate incidents, before withdrawing on September 4.”
The rights group also reported that on September 9, according to witnesses, Tigrayan forces summarily executed a total of 23 people in the town of Kobo in four separate incidents, The killings were in apparent retaliation for attacks by farmers on advancing Tigrayan forces earlier that day, it said.
Human Rights Watch said it conducted remote interviews in September and October with 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 execute a total of 49 people who they said were civilians, providing 44 names,” the group said.
HRW also said it obtained “three lists of civilians who had allegedly been killed in Chenna between August 31 and September 4. Taken together, the lists contain 74 names, 30 of which witnesses and relatives of those killed also mentioned to Human Rights Watch. In addition to summary executions, civilians may also have been killed during the fighting from crossfire or heavy weapons. Human Rights Watch was not able to determine how many were killed in this way.”
A year-long war has raged between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the former ruling party of the Tigray region. The conflict has given rise to many atrocities committed by all sides.
Separate investigations by CNN and Amnesty International in February uncovered evidence of massacres carried out by Eritrean forces in the Tigrayan towns of Dengelat and Axum late last year. Another CNN investigation published in June revealed new details of a massacre committed by Ethiopian soldiers in the Tigrayan town of Mahibere Dego in January.
This week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that his troops had captured strategic towns from the northern Tigray forces, including the key towns Dessie and Kombolcha, which were captured by TPLF just over one month ago.