November 14, 2020
Nairobi Regional Office
PO Box 1527, 00606 Sarit Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Re: Amnesty’s Report titled “Ethiopia: Investigation reveals evidence that scores of civilians were killed in massacre in Tigray state” dated 12 November 2020
Dear Sir or Madam:
First of all, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for your tireless work in exposing human rights abuses in East Africa particularly in Ethiopia. We read your report titled “Ethiopia: Investigation reveals evidence that scores of civilians were killed in massacre in Tigray state” dated 12 November 2020, in which horrific crimes were committed on possibly hundreds of civilian residents of the town of May-Kadira in west Tigiray near the boarders of the Amhara Regional State and the Sudan. Needless to say, we are heartbroken and deeply saddened by the horrific crimes committed on fellow humans.
We are also shocked by the suggestion in the report that forces belonging to the Tigiray Regional State could be responsible for the massacre of their own people. It defies logic to indicate that the highly disciplined, well trained and well-armed forces of the regional state, which had been administering the area for more than 30 years, would be used to commit such horrific crimes using rudimentary weapons. In fact, Tigiray is the only regional state in Ethiopia where there have not been any reports of racially motivated killings among the general public or in universities, which have become the hot beds of ethnic strife and killings in the rest of the country since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power.
In its report titled “Ethiopians fleeing to Sudan describe air strikes and machete killings in Tigray” dated November 13, 2020, Reuters has made it abundantly clear that the atrocities were committed by “people from the Amhara region, which borders Tigray and whose rulers back Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.” One of the refugees who fled the massacre and was interviewed in the Sudan, stated that “I saw the bodies of people who had been slain thrown in the streets. Others who were injured were dragged with a rope tied to a rickshaw. What happened is frightening and terrible, and the Tigrayans are being killed and chased down. Anything is looted, and our area was attacked with tanks.” There is no mistaking that the war is a grand genocide in the making and all the signs indicate that the attack on civilians is extremely coordinated and sponsored by the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has chosen bullets over ballots.
We have heard unconfirmed allegations that Dr. Daniel Bekele of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission coordinated the staging of false ‘eyewitnesses’ who were said to have been secretly trained in Gonder and brought as eyewitnesses to representatives of your organization. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has remained silent on a host of other human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government, including the illegal blockage of Tigiray and cutting all services to the region, as well as committing ethnic profiling, sacking, and unlawfully arresting people of Tigirayan decent who live outside of Tigiray. In fact, the genocidal propaganda against almost anything Tigirayan that has been broadcasted in the 2 ½ years of Abiy Ahmed’s premiership has caused so much animosity against the Tigirayan people.
The Amhara government and mass media agencies have been at the forefront of the propaganda, beating the war drums and agitating their people against Tigirayans and their government. Therefore, there should be no question that the advancing forces loyal to the Amhara government, especially the militia, who are not trained or are ill trained and ill equipped committed this horrendous crimes on their “perceived” enemies as they occupied new towns in Tigiray.
While documenting and exposing the massacre was the absolute right thing to do, we believe that Amnesty International erred in rushing to the suggestion that the crime was committed by forces loyal to the Tigirayan government. It is especially worrisome that the erroneous suggestion was made at a time when Amnesty International was unable to verify the information because all means of communication and access to Tigiray region are cut off by the Federal Government.
At a time of war and high tempers, you can appreciate the incalculable damage wrong information or suggestion can do to the trust between peoples. Not only will such an error allow for the perpetrators to evade accountability, but it will also be used for retaliation and more conflict in Ethiopia. Therefore, we ask Amnesty International to retract or amend the report as quickly as possible before further damage results in the social fabric of the community.
Thank you in advance for your quick attention to this matter.
Ethiopian Canadians for Peace
Toronto, Ontario, Canada