State-Engineered Cover-Up of the War on Tigray
A War Fought in the Dark
- Very little is known about the extent and severity of the war and humanitarian crisis in Tigray. Aid agencies are unable to reach 80 percent of Tigray’s population. Internet services have been consistently down and telephone services mostly cut off, with sporadic connectivity across Tigray. The Ethiopian government has largely restricted local and international media agencies from entering Tigray.
- Recent international reports and news agencies have documented crimes against humanity and war crimes by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces since the war began on November 4, 2020.
- The unelected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, and Eritrea’s dictator Isaias Afeworki have collaborated in dismantling Tigray and in covering-up the atrocities committed during the genocidal war in Tigray.
Downplaying the Severity of the Atrocities in Tigray
- Abiy’s administration is working tirelessly to cover-up or ignore the atrocities being committed in Tigray. It has gone as far as attacking western countries and international media outlets who have spoken out against the crimes being committed in Tigray.
- The administration continues to try to deceive the world through its diplomatic channels and missions regarding humanitarian aid provided and media access granted to Tigray. It has downplayed the severity of the humanitarian crisis since November 2020, including reports starvation and rape allegations.
- The administration claims that 3.1 million people in Tigray have been provided relief, while international aid agencies confirm that the regime does not have control of over 80 percent of the Tigray region. Millions of people in rural areas are in desperate need of basic services and goods. About 4.5 million are at risk of starvation.
Denying Atrocities and Crimes in Tigray
- Amnesty International’s report released on February 25, 2021, confirmed that Eritrean and Ethiopian armed forces massacred hundreds of civilians in Axum while the city fell under the complete control of the Eritrean and Ethiopian forces. Eritrean troops entered the city with tanks and a great number of soldiers and killed civilians indiscriminately over the course of 48 hours.
- Abiy’s administration dedicated a lengthy and irresponsible statement to cover up the atrocities committed in Axum. The press statement begins with the usual but strongly contested assignment of blame to Tigrayan authorities. In their view because the Tigrayan forces attacked the Northern Command, they are thus Denying Atrocities and Crimes in Tigray.
- In regards to remarks by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray, Abiy’s administration released a press statement on March 13, 2021, claiming that the accusation was “completely unfounded and a spurious verdict against the Ethiopian government.” ‘primarily responsible’ for whatever has followed since.
The Attempt to Silence Tigrayans
- Ethiopia’s current administration is working tirelessly to silence Tigrayans who are exposing the cover-up by telling their stories and by rejecting the occupation and extreme cruelty.
- Tigrayans are being tortured and abused in connection with their interactions with journalists. There are also disturbing reports coming from Mekelle that English translators of the seven media outlets currently in Tigray have been kidnapped, tortured and abused.
- Tigrayan journalists who have reported on the atrocities being committed in Tigray have also been targeted and arrested in Addis Ababa.
- Tigrayans in the diaspora who have been using social media to voice their concerns over the genocide in Tigray are often labeled as “the children or the beneficiaries of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front)” by Abiy’s administration.
Methods of the Cover-Up
- Ethiopian officials continue to be in a deliberate state of denial since the war began in November 2020. The Ethiopian PM went to the extent of saying that not a single civilian was killed during the operation when he reported to parliament and declared the ‘end of the law enforcement operation’ in November 2020. The Ethiopian government has blamed the atrocities and property looting and destruction of Tigray’s economy on the TPLF and its supporters.
- The Ethiopian government is now vowing to investigate the allegations by Ethiopian “independent” agencies. There have been minimal attempts to investigate the heinous crimes committed in the rest of Tigray until now. With external pressure from the international community, the Ethiopian government has claimed that it is investigating some of these crimes through its independent agencies that are likely influenced by Abiy’s administration.
- The Ethiopian government continues to blame the TPLF and its supporters. Although Abiy had declared victory after entering Tigray’s capital in November 2020, the regime is consistently trying to discredit the accounts of victims, eye witnesses and survivors to downplay the crimes committed during the war in Tigray.
Why the Cover-Up?
- Seeking to avoid any responsibility for what they have done in Tigray;
- Engaged in a well thought-out cover up campaign to get away with the atrocities, the various abuses and the total destruction they have purposefully carried out in Tigray;
- Not committed to serving justice and preventing further repression of civilians and atrocities and sexual violence against them;
- Determined to destroy human and material evidence by killing and harassing witnesses and victims and relocating mass grave yards;
- Determined to control the narrative and spread false information by imposing restrictions on journalists, aid workers and UN bodies, and by rejecting impartial and international investigation into the mass crimes using sovereignty as an excuse.
A Call to Prevent the Obstruction of Justice in Tigray
- Those who are orchestrating and leading the cover-up activities relating to the crimes against Tigrayans are obstructing international justice.
- Advocates for justice must expose the state-sponsored cover-up activities, which amount to obstruction of international justice, outlawed under Article 70 of the 1998 Rome Statute.
- The atrocities and associated crimes committed in Tigray must not be investigated by the perpetrators themselves, but by an independent entity.
- Any investigation by the Ethiopian Attorney General and the Federal Police must be rejected; they should not undertake any investigation, as both state offices and their key officials are implicated in the ethnic profiling, mass charges and arrests of Tigrayans; the Attorney General and other key.
A Call for an Impartial Inquiry
- Launch an impartial international inquiry into the crimes and alleged perpetrators, as called for by Amnesty International and others.
- Dedicate time and resources to watch and protect mass graves, victims and witnesses using their satellites, other technologies, and investigative journalism.
- Compel the Ethiopian and Eritrean regimes through lawful means to refrain from destroying evidence, abusing and targeting victims and witnesses, in addition to constantly monitoring the sites of crimes.
- Indict those who have committed war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in Tigray at the International Criminal Court.