No Evidence Proving Use of Starvation as Weapon of War in Tigray: Investigation Team

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Addis Ababa November 3/2021 (ENA)  The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) drawn from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office revealed today that there is no evidence which confirms starvation was used as weapon of war in the conflict in Tigray region.

The report confirmed that the Tigray Special Forces and allied militia attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force and took control of the bases and weaponary on November 3, 2020.    

It is to be recalled that some Westerners and their media outlets wrongly accused the government of blocking humanitarian access to Tigray. The government was in fact engaged in facilitating humanitarian aid to the region.

Moreover, the government declared unilateral ceasefire to allow unfettered humanitarian access to victims and give time for farming season.

The joint report has confirmed that there is no evidence which indicates that starvation was used as weapon of war in the Tigray region.

Presenting the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the report, Human Rights Commissioner Daniel Bekele said the team has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee laws.

The report details series of violations and abuses, including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians. 

The commissioner pointed out that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a number of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, which require further investigations to ensure accountability.

He added that there were impediments or delays in humanitarian assistance attributed to active conflict, lack of functional local administrative bodies for coordination, and lack of cooperation by security at checkpoints.

“The JIT could not confirm that there was deliberate or willful denial of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Tigray or the use of starvation as a weapon of war, but the JIT recognizes that the need for further investigation on this alleged violations related to denial of access to humanitarian relief as well as the killings of humanitarian workers.”   

Responding to the question posed by journalists whether genocide was committed in the region, Deputy Country Representative of UN Office for High Commissioner for Human Rights, Charles Kwemo said, “When we look at the report, the investigation team couldn’t confirm the number of violations we encountered.

“What we could say then, as part of recommendation, is if such allegation is still there that could be addressed by another mechanism, but this joint investigation was not able to confirm that.”

Daniel noted that the JIT faced several security, operational, and administrative challenges in carrying out its work, but there was no direct intervention or pressure from the government.

As the conflict expands with more reports of violations and abuses, this report presents an opportunity for all parties to acknowledge responsibility and commit to concrete measures on accountability, redress for victims and the search for a sustainable solution to end the suffering of millions, he added.

The report covers the period from 3 November 2020 to 28th June 2021 when the Government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Investigations on incidents in Amhara and Afar regions are being carried out by the institutions separately, it was learned.

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