All factions battling in Ethiopia's northern province of Tigray committed acts that may amount to war crimes, according to a joint inquiry by the United Nations and Ethiopia announced on Wednesday,
According to the study, all sides are accused of torturing and murdering people, committing gang rapes, and making arrests based on ethnicity.
It was made public the day after Ethiopia declared an emergency. On Monday, Tigrayan troops threatened to march on Addis Ababa to overthrow Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's administration.
The inquiry was conducted by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which the Ethiopian government-appointed.
It covers the year-long struggle between Tigrayan forces and the Ethiopian military and its allies - troops from the Amhara area and soldiers from Eritrea's neighboring countries - from November to June.
"International human rights, humanitarian, and refugee legislation have been violated by all sides to the Tigray war. Some of them might be classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity "UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
According to Bachelet, Ethiopian and Eritrean troops committed the majority of breaches during the time covered by the study, but since then, they've observed a rise in complaints from Tigrayan forces, as well as continued abuses by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.
Eritrean military had "major culpability" for several crimes, she added, either individually or collectively.
The study is based on 269 interviews, many of which feature gruesome allegations of Eritrean troops raping and mutilating civilians on military outposts.
Despite having "severe misgivings," Prime Minister Abiy said he accepted the report, not accusing the government of genocide or using food as a weapon. He said that a joint civil-military team would be formed to look into all of the claims made in the report. Individual troops are being tried in Ethiopia for rape and murder, according to reports.
In a tweet, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel, who had previously denied Eritrean forces were stationed in Tigray, labeled the allegation "fallacious... completely untrue."
Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), stated the study "did not cover all the horrific crime places" and accused Ethiopian investigators of prejudice.
Gizachew Muluneh, the Amhara regional spokesman, was unavailable for comment but has previously denied abuses.
According to the report, Eritrean soldiers killed around 100 civilians in Axum, Ethiopian soldiers dragged about 70 men from their homes and killed them in three villages in southern Tigray, and Tigrayan forces killed around 200 Amhara civilians in Mai Kadra, a crime that was followed by Amhara revenge killings of Tigrayans.
Due to time restrictions, investigators did not visit Sudan, where most Mai Kadra victims fled. Around 600,000 Tigrayans left Western Tigray once it came under Amhara rule, according to the study.
Reuters and other news organizations, human rights organizations, and civil society organizations have reported many additional mass deaths of civilians that were not covered in the study.
It was unclear if the contents of the study could be used as a foundation for legal action. The International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over Ethiopia and Eritrea since they are not members.
THE YEAR OF THE CONFLICT
According to the report, Eritrean military were also accused of forcibly returning Eritrean refugees residing in Tigray, in violation of international law.
The study accused both sides of obstructing supplies at various times and said it couldn't confirm if famine was employed as a weapon of war, as the UN's humanitarian head had previously said. The UN earlier said that the government imposed a "de facto ban" on food supplies. The government disputes this.
According to the report, investigators were often hampered in their investigation, notably in regions held by Amhara troops, or were unable to visit some locations due to instability. It made no mention of Ethiopia's September deportation of a United Nations investigator working on the report.
According to the report, the presence of investigators from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission made the Tigrayan leadership unwilling to interact
The battle started after regional troops and Tigrayan soldiers in the national army gained control of military posts throughout Tigray a year ago. They said that the central government was preparing to take action against Tigray after the area staged its own polls despite a federal mandate to postpone them. find out more
Approximately 400,000 people in Tigray are suffering hunger, thousands of civilians have been murdered, and more than 2.5 million people in northern Ethiopia have been forced to leave their homes due to the fighting.
Written By: Olivium's Staff.