Experts from the United Nations have warned that despite a peace deal to end violence in Ethiopia, war crimes are still being committed in the African country.
UN experts sounded the alarm in a report on Monday almost a year after the government and forces from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) reached an agreement to end fighting.
The TPLF, based in the north of the country, had been fighting the government forces since November 2020, and the ensuing war saw both sides carry out atrocities, according to human rights groups.
“While the signing of the agreement may have mostly silenced the guns, it has not resolved the conflict in the north of the country, in particular in Tigray, nor has it brought about any comprehensive peace,” Mohamed Chande Othman, chair of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Thousands lost their lives in the two-year conflict, which formally came to an end in November 2022. Both warring sides accused each other of atrocities, including massacres, rape and arbitrary detentions. However, both sides denied responsibility for the systemic abuses.
According to the report, human rights violations in Tigray are “grave and ongoing”, and that the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) have launched attacks against civilians.
Eritrean troops took part in the conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region since early months of the fighting but promised to pull the troops out. Eritrea had revealed in 2021 that its forces had entered northern Ethiopia.
Later in 2021, the United States said Eritrean troops “have been seen disguised in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, and threatening medical staff in one of northern Ethiopia's few operating hospitals.”
The US Treasury Department, in November that year, also cited “numerous reports of looting, sexual assault, killing civilians, and blocking humanitarian aid” by Eritrean forces in Ethiopia’s northern region.
Eritrea, however, has rejected accusations from residents and rights groups that its soldiers committed abuses in Tigray.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the UN commission, described the sexual violence taking place in the conflict as being “as bad as it gets.”
“I must admit the worst of this was that perpetrated by Eritrean forces in Tigray. Though, of course, Ethiopian forces were also responsible,” she said, adding that Tigrayan forces had also perpetrated sexual violence in Amhara.
According to the commission, violations “have been abetted or tolerated by the federal government.”
It also stressed the government had failed in its duty to protect its population.
The Ethiopian National Defence Forces, Eritrean Defence Forces and allied regional Special Forces carried out a “widespread and systematic attack” against civilian populations in the form of murder, torture, rape and other violations, it further said.
“Violent confrontations are now at a near-national scale, with alarming reports of violations against civilians in the Amhara region and on-going atrocities in Tigray,” Othman added.
Figures by the commission show that more than 10,000 survivors of sexual violence sought care between the beginning of the conflict and July this year.
Ethiopia has seen an unprecedented rise in ethnic violence in the past several years, with thousands killed and millions uprooted from their houses.