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Human Rights Watch calls for UN, AU to suspend Ethiopian troops from peacekeeping missions

Inhabitants of Merawi town claimed that government forces were responsible for the deaths of a minimum of 50 individuals on 29 January, 2024 (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba – Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling upon the United Nations and the African Union to contemplate the suspension of fresh deployments of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) into international peacekeeping operations.

This call stems from the alleged involvement of ENDF commanders in the “summarily execution of several dozen civilians” in Merawi town, located in the Amhara region.

The rights group has additionally leveled accusations against the Ethiopian military forces, alleging their involvement in “war crimes” on the 29th of January in the town of Merawi.

As per Human Rights Watch, the incident stands out as one of the most lethal occurrences involving civilians amidst the recent clashes between federal forces and the non-state militia, Fano.

The organization stated it has conducted interviews with 20 individuals, encompassing both victims and eyewitnesses, and scrutinized videos and satellite imagery. These sources provided corroboration for reports of soldiers carrying out executions of civilians on the streets and during household searches spanning a six-hour duration.

“The Ethiopian armed forces’ brutal killings of civilians in Amhara undercut government claims that it’s trying to bring law and order to the region,” said Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Africa director. “Since fighting began between federal forces and the Fano militia, civilians are once again bearing the brunt of an abusive army operating with impunity.”

Human Rights Watch indicated its inability to ascertain a precise death toll but has compiled lists of victims totaling 40 names. According to residents’ estimates, the casualties exceeded 80 individuals, some of whom were interred in mass graves.

Furthermore, the organization leveled accusations against soldiers for engaging in looting activities and setting vehicles ablaze.

In the aftermath of the incident, Addis Standard reported that a minimum of 50 individuals were purportedly killed by government forces in what residents described as “execution.” The victims encompassed children and women, spanning ages ranging from 14 to 96 years old.

One week subsequent to the incident, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued its preliminary report, revealing that a minimum of 45 civilians had been subjected to extrajudicial execution “by government security forces” on allegations of “supporting Fano.”

The Ethiopian government has refuted allegations of extrajudicial killings purportedly carried out by state security forces in the town of Merawi.

While Legesse Tulu, the Minister of State for Communication Services, acknowledged the occurrence of a confrontation between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the non-state militia, Fano, within the town, he asserted that the defense forces “did not target any civilians” and that the military acted in “self-defense.”

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch maintained that the evidence suggested disproportionate killings of civilians.

Furthermore, the European Union, United States, and United Kingdom have condemned these killings and advocated for an independent investigation.

The organization called upon the UN Human Rights Council to advocate for a renewed focus on oversight in Ethiopia. Additionally, it urged the UN human rights chief to promptly investigate the Merawi incident as well as other conflict zones.

It also recommended the potential suspension of Ethiopian personnel from UN and AU peacekeeping missions until accountability measures are implemented. AS

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