A letter to Your Excellency Ms Michelle Bachelet, United Nation Higher commissioner for Human Rights:
Alarmed by your announcement for agreeing to a call by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission for a joint investigation, and reading the commission’s “preliminary report” dated 24th of March, presented as a deposit for “a possible place” in investigations on human Rights Violations in Tigray in the future, we hereby to write you a letter to kindly request you to retract your agreement and/or announcement to work with the commission in the investigation of atrocities committed inside Tigray.
We would like to begin from Mai kadra and proceed to the recent “preliminary report” by the commission; we would also like to say a few words on the commission itself with emphasis on the leadership and its track record.
It came to the attention of most Ethiopians and the international community that a heinous massacre of hundreds of civilians had been committed in a little known, small town in western Tigray, Mai kadra, on November 9-10, in the most barbaric, brutal way.
The state owned and party affiliated media in Ethiopia in unison already started the reporting on November 10 while the massacre was ongoing in the most sensational, graphic way, and with evident jubilation. The entire state and party owned media, in one word, claimed that the massacre was “conducted by Tigryans”, and “the victims were entirely ethnic Amhara”. The perpetrators of the crime were said to have the group of “Samri”. This was done on the same day the massacre was being conducted, and graphic pictures started to come on that very same day. The entire Ethiopian media blew the news up in unseen manner, accusing ethnic Tigrayans of all kinds of crimes; cursing ethnic Tigyans with derogatory insults and dehumanizing terms , and portraying the entire ethnic Tigryans as “inhuman aliens”, “killers”, at times “cannibals”, and “devil-him-self”s.
Within the first three days after the massacre, the entire Tigrayan population in Mai kadra has been either killed, put in concentration camps, or driven away. Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in no time came up with 5-paged “report” which they named it “preliminary Report”. Ethiopian Humans Rights Commission said that “they dispatched a team to investigate the massacre 5 Days after the incident”, and came up with a “report” which simply echoes what the media have been narrating since day-one. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission blamed ethnic Tigrayan youth called “Samri” and TPLF to be the perpetrators , and the victims being “Ethnic Amhara”. Amnesty International (East Africa) was seen falling for the trap of the cooked Ethiopian government’s and EHRC’s reports, and echoing it. Dr. Daniel Bekelle, being a former advisor to Amnesty and a former higher authority in Human Rights Watch, is thought to have influenced Amnesty’s conclusions.
However, the evidences which started to slowly come out later after the reports by EHRC and Amnesty, over the past four months, showed a completely different picture from the previous reports. Ethiopian government is consistently blocking calls for independent investigation on Mai Kadra massacre, citing that they were verified by independent human rights bodies. The government knows this is not the case.
Ethiopian government and its EHRC were successful in creating confusion and deceiving the people of Ethiopia and the international community for quite a long time, and that enabled the government of Ethiopia, the government of the regional state of Amhara and their Eritrean and UAE allies rally public support to conduct the most brutal atrocities including ethnic cleansing and genocide in Tigray at greater scale.
According to a non-comprehensive preliminary study by Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray, conducted through interviewing people displaced from Mai Kadra (now in Sudan, Shire, and Mekelle), the massacre was conducted by Amhara Special Forces, Amhara Militiamen and an Amhara youth armed squad called “Fano”. The killers were ethnic Amhara, and more than 90% of the victims were ethnic Tigrayans. We hope, your reputable bureau will do a though investigation and expose the the truth.
It can be safely said that the unimaginably brutal massacre in Mai Kadra was orchestrated by Ethiopian and Amhara governments. It can also be said, conclusively, that there was never a Tigryan youth group named “Samri”. This Ethiopian/Amhara government orchestrated massacre on ethnic Tigrayans conducted by ethnic Amhara, haven taken a completely different (opposite) picture, in a circus of events, used as a springboard for the subsequent aggravated atrocities and genocide committed on ethnic Tigrayans.
In short, the purpose of the well planned, well-executed, and maliciously and cunningly narrated (to serve a certain purpose) massacre in Mai kadra was not limited to killing hundreds or thousands in Mai kadra, but rather:
- To drive away the entire population in Mai Kadra;
- To kill, drive away an entire estimated 1 million population in western Tigray from their homes and from their land that they inhabited for generations (ethnic cleansing)
- To fuel anti-Tigray sentiments throughout Ethiopia, profile ethnic Tigrayans, and incite ethnic-based attacks and killings throughout the country;
- To give Ethiopian army a convincing reason, a purpose to willfully conduct the war crimes, crimes against humanity including genocide on ethnic Tigrayans; and a driving impulse to act in the way it is acting now. The unimaginable level of ferociousness, cruelty, and barbarism manifested by Ethiopian soldiers (especially those who are ethnic Amhara) could have come from this set up (at least aggravated by it).
EHRC, which claimed to have dispatched a group to investigate the Mai-Kadra massacre in just five days had to wait for 4 months, and had to wait until the PM makes admission (however partial) about the presence of Eritrean army and the atrocities committed, to come up with such an incomplete, non-comprehensive, dishonest report, a month after Amnesty’s report, and 20 days after that of Human Rights Watch. It is true that Ethiopia Human Rights Commission’s report, however incomplete and dishonest, has shown unimaginable level of cruelty and blood thirst of the Eritrean army which conducted the Axum Massacre under Ethiopian government invitation.
However, whatever EHRC says about the Axum Massacre shall not be taken as a “proof” for the commission’s independence, credibility or impartiality- absolutely not! The fact that EHRC had to release its report just after Ethiopia’s PM makes admission about Eritrea’s presence and human Rights violations alone shows the commission’s lack of independence, and the aim of the report to be just to corroborate the PMs admission.
One can safely say that, had EHRC been the first to investigate the massacre in Axum, it would have certainly come up with a completely different report, probably denying it all, or projecting the blame to somebody else, like what it did in Mai Kadra.
There is also one important point to raise with regards to the time frame and the sequence events. It is to be remembered that Amnesty International made its findings public on February 26. On that same day, EHRC’s Commissioner Dr Daniel Bekelle said that Amnesty report should be taken seriously, and that his Bureau has got credible reports of human right violations”. According to EHRC, “they dispatched a group to Axum to investigate” on February 27, a day after Amnesty’s report. EHRC also adds “previous attempts were impeded”. One should ask what “miraculous” thing could have happened overnight? After sitting idle for 4 months, what changed overnight?
This takes us to assume that probably Ethiopian government and EHRC initially thought that the massacres will not be investigated by a credible humanitarian organizations like Amnesty international, or probably they thought that they can produce Mai kadra-like report from their desk denying it all or shifting the blame to someone else when necessary.
Now that Amnesty international, HRW and other human rights organizations have set their eyes on Axum, they knew it can no more be concealed and that the inevitable is coming and that they have to save the day and save themselves, and avoid being left out in future investigations. That is what EHRC’s report is — a mission to rescue itself, and present itself in other more important investigations inside Tigray in the future. No doubt the commission is trying to present this “report” as a “deposit” for it to get a place in future investigations in the human right violations in Tigray so that they could corrupt the investigation, distort the truth, and provide impunity to the perpetrators of the crimes.
It should be reemphasized that the target in EHRC report never about the Axum Massacre; Axum is a done deal, with the responsibility lying on Eritrea. The target is the inevitable investigations on human rights violations throughout Tigray. Abiy’s government and its EHRC want Axum to be the beginning and the end of the investigations on human Rights violations; at least, they want Axum to remain the center of the investigation; they want the rest of the atrocities throughout Tigray to either be bypassed or be “investigated” by EHRC itself.
In a press conference organized by the Geneva Press Club and the Network of Ethiopians in Geneva for Action Taskforce (NEGAT) in collaboration with the Ethiopian Permanent Mission in Geneva on Jan 6/7, Daniel Bekelle said “as the military operation unfolded, it is comforting to learn that the operation didn’t result in as severe consequences as it was originally feared to be; there was a much-hyped about bloodbath; there was much talked about civilian casualties; didn’t happen at least to the extent it was anticipated to be”. He further says that “the campaign of misinformation will be tarnished as the operation concludes and roads are opened”. Dr Daniel, in saying this without doing any investigation on human rights violations, he shows not only that he is partisan, but also morally degraded, and inhumane. It is to be remembered that by December, ethnic cleansing was committed in western and souther Tigray, with already 2.2 million displaced, according to government data.
The use of the term “military operation” too is interesting, here; as a “humanitarian” while he should call it “conflict” or “war” (because that is what it is), He chose to use the term “military operation” in line with Ethiopian government’s narrative. This alone may tell us a lot about the commission and its chief.
EHRC’s lack of adequate institutional capacity, experience, integrity, independence, and credibility is one giant problem on itself; but, more important is that EHRC itself is a party in the conflict and subsequent crimes (including genocide), by cooking a fake document which fueled the conflict and creating a fertile soil for the subsequent atrocities and genocide on ethnic Tigrayans.
All in all, EHRC, an organization with no institutional independence and acceptable credibility; an organization proven time and again to be partial in matters related to Tigray; an institution which even served to instigate ethnic cleansing and genocide on Tigray through a malicious cooked fake report; and a hhief hand-picked by the Prime Minister (and a close associate to him); shall be kept at a distance from investigations on human rights violations in Tigray in the future, for it will not come up with a credible, impartial, accurate report.
In fact, EHRC is a party to be investigated, not a “neutral” party to independently and honestly investigate. It shall not be involved in any of the investigations on the atrocities committed in Tigray in the future.
The Mai Kadra, Humera, Dansha, Hawzien, Axum, Dengelat, Debre Abay, Mahbere Deigo, Gijjet, Chilla, Bora Chellena, Tenbien, and many more massacres, and all the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed throughout Tigray by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces should be investigated by a truly independent, credible, institutionally capable, impartial investigators under a UN-mandate. Ms Bachelet, a UN-led independent investigation in to the war crimes and grave crimes against humanity is all that Tigray demands. Partners-in-crime cronies like Ethiopian Human Rights commission and its chief who should themselves be investigated, shall not be allowed to corrupt the investigation, cover up the truth, and give impunity to their allies and partners in crime, hidden in the name of “Human Rights Institutions”.
Your Excellency Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray demands you and your reputable commission to avoid an impending miscarriage of justice by retracting your agreement to involve Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray” is a grass root civil movement based in Tigray, committed to promoting rule of law, good governance in Tigray and Ethiopia