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More than 749 civilians killed in the Afar and Amhara regions: rights body

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More than 749 civilians have been killed in the Afar and Amhara regions since July, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.

EHRC has released on Friday its investigation into alleged human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the Amhara and Afar regions.

The report says that at least 403 civilians were killed in heavy artillery fire, and 346 were killed in extra-judicial killings.

Although the human rights body blames both government forces and rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for the killings, it said the main role was played by TPLF.

“In parts of Afar and Amhara regions covered by this investigation, at least 346 civilians have been subjected to unlawful and extra-judicial killing by parties to the conflict — mainly by Tigray forces,” said Daniel Bekele, the commission’s head, at a press conference unveiling the report.

The rights body also accuses Tigrayan rebels of widespread abuses such as gang rape, torture, looting, and the destruction of public facilities like hospitals and schools in the two regions bordering Tigray.

“Tigray Forces committed widespread, cruel, and systematic sexual and gender-based violence including gang-rape against women of different ages including girls and elderly women in parts of Afar and Amhara regions under their control,” according to the report.

“Tigray forces engaged in abductions and enforced disappearances in a manner that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” it said, while also accusing federal and local security forces in Amhara and Afar of widespread arbitrary detentions.

More than 4,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed and around 2,400 health facilities have stopped working as a result of the destruction, damage, and pillage they sustained.”

EHRC deployed a 29-member investigation team in three regions: Amhara, Tigray, and Afar, covering over 50 locations in Amhara and Afar regions. The team also conducted limited monitoring and investigation into civilian casualties of air raids/shelling that took place in some parts of the Tigray region.

The EHRC team conducted 427 confidential interviews and held 136 meetings with various government offices and authorities; it also conducted 12 focus group discussions with religious leaders, community elders, and internally displaced persons, it said.

Because the war was conducted largely in towns and rural areas with dense civilian populations, a significant number of civilians have died, suffered physical and psychological injuries as well as sexual and gender-based violence as a direct result of acts of violence committed by parties to the conflict, says the report.

In many areas covered by this investigation, and which were under their control, Tigray Forces carried out widespread and organized pillaging, looting and destruction of government administration facilities, public service facilities (in particular education and health facilities), private property, and commercial properties, according to the report.

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