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Ethiopia, HRW’s Accusation: “Ethnic Cleansing Continues in Tigray”. The Report

Human Rights Watch states in a new report that ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, and forced expulsion of Tigrayans from Western Tigray persist despite the Pretoria Peace Agreement of November 2, 2022.

Ethiopia: Ethnic Cleansing Persists Under Tigray Truce

Ethnic cleansing. The accusations are specific and precise: local authorities and Amhara forces in the Western Tigray region have continued to forcibly expel Tigrayans as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign and have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Specifically, HRW points fingers at two Ethiopian officials, Col. Demeke Zewdu and Col. Belay Ayalew, who are already implicated in abuses. According to the group, they are reportedly still involved in arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced deportations of Tigrayans.

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“The November ceasefire in northern Ethiopia has not put an end to the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in the Western Tigray region,” said Laetitia Bader, Africa Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch. “If the Ethiopian government is truly serious about ensuring justice for the abuses, it should stop obstructing independent investigations into the atrocities in Western Tigray and take into account violent officials and commanders.”

HRW’s report is based on telephone interviews with 35 individuals, including witnesses, victims of abuse, and personnel from humanitarian agencies, from September 2022 to April 2023.


The majority of the interviewees are Tigrayans who were arbitrarily detained in the city of Humera. The interviewees stated that local authorities and Amhara forces held over a thousand Tigrayans in detention in the cities of Humera, Rawyan, and Adebai in Western Tigray based on their identity, before forcibly expelling them in November 2022 or January 2023.

Several former detainees informed HRW that, once again, in early January 2023, at least 70 people, including residents and detainees, were forcibly expelled from their homes.

“They asked me to pay 300,000 birr so that I could be released in [Sudan], not in Tigray. They told us that we must all die, none of you should remain alive,” said one of the witnesses, a 30-year-old detainee at the Bet Hintset prison in Humera. The prison gained attention in August of last year due to the murder of six detainees, who were killed in retaliation following the escape of 16 of their companions.

©️ UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu

A family from Samre, in southwestern Tigray, walked for two days to reach a camp for displaced people in Mekelle.

A joint report by HRW and Amnesty International titled “We Will Erase You from This Land” had already documented extensive accounts of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray by the newly appointed officials and security forces from the neighboring Amhara region, “with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces.”

“We Will Erase You from This Land.” Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone

The report officially revealed “the systematic expulsion of several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from their homes through threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass arbitrary detention, looting, forced displacement, and denial of humanitarian assistance.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Credit: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy/Pool/File Photo

These accusations were further supported by the United States Department of State, which publicly stated in March of this year that they have evidence of “crimes against humanity, deportations, or forced transfers” committed by members of the Amhara forces, who have been responsible for a true form of ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in Western Tigray.

By urging the Ethiopian government to suspend and investigate civilian and military officials involved in human rights violations, Human Rights Watch has also called on the African Union to ensure that the monitoring mission regarding compliance with the Pretoria agreements publicly reports on protection issues, rights violations, and humanitarian access in Western Tigray during its scheduled visit this month.

Furthermore, it has invited Ethiopian political and business partners to consider imposing financial sanctions and visa restrictions on anyone who has been or will be implicated in future human rights violations during the conflict that has affected the entire northern part of the country, even after the agreements that marked its official end.

Ethiopia: Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities in Tigray. The Text

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