Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military operation against leaders in the Tigray region, sending in troops from the neighboring Amhara region. CNN has previously reported that soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have perpetrated many of the extrajudicial killings, assaults and human rights abuses in the Tigray region.
After seizing control of Tigray’s main cities in late November, Abiy declared victory and maintained that no civilians were harmed in the offensive.
“They are killing our people in this country, they are killing children, all ages of the population and they are conducting rape,” Debretsion told CNN in a phone interview from an undisclosed location.
“All sorts of acts of genocide have been committed in Tigray. So, the most important thing is that an investigation must be conducted,” he added.
“We are calling for an investigation into the CNN findings on the ground in Tigray.”
“It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” the ministry said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that the US was “gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation,” and called for Eritrean and Amhara regional forces to withdraw immediately. Blinken’s statement came one day after CNN’s investigation, as well as another by Amnesty International, both detailing eyewitness accounts of civilian massacres in two separate assaults in late 2020.
Debretsion said he was making an urgent call to the Biden administration to keep the pressure on the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments.
“We want to have peace in this region, in this country so we want [the US] to continue to push [for the withdrawal] of invader forces from Tigray to stop the atrocities, genocide and destruction,” he told CNN.
“We need, you know, humanitarian assistance as well … The whole Tigray is in social and economic crisis. Our people need assistance, they need humanitarian support. So, it’s an urgent call. We need this push from the [US] President.”
Repeated denials of Eritrean involvement
The Amnesty International report charged that Eritrean forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in the city of Axum, also in Tigray region, in November through indiscriminate shelling and shooting and extrajudicial killings, in what the human rights organization said could amount to a crime against humanity.
The Ethiopian foreign ministry’s statement Monday did not mention the presence of forces from neighboring Eritrea during the recent offensive. It added that it was “fully committed” to investigating any human rights violations. Prime Minister Abiy has also denied that soldiers from Eritrea crossed into Tigray to support Ethiopian forces.
Blinken had called for a “full, independent international investigation into all reports of human rights violations, abuses and atrocities.”