An Indictment of Human Rights Abuses in the Ethiopian Tigray Conflict

By Lucas Lee

Published Date: 2021 / 05 / 02


[Photo Credit: Deutsche Welle]

It has been witnessed in Nigeria. It has been witnessed in Somalia. It is being witnessed in Ethiopia. In the midst of the ongoing regional Tigray conflict—in which clashes after a falling out between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ruling Ahmed regime since November 2020 have both killed and displaced thousands of civilians—we are watching human rights atrocity after atrocity unfolds in front of our very eyes.

Ensuing after the TPLF captured several key military installations in northern Ethiopia, an Ethiopian-Eritrean coalition force was mobilized to subdue TPLF insurgents. Yet what has been a fiercely fought war between belligerent governments has had ramifications trickle down to unassuming Ethiopian and Eritrean civilians caught in the crossfires. Conscious massacres, rampant cases of sexual assault, and indiscriminate shellings are just a few of the not-so-subtle human rights violations that have become a fixture of the Tigray conflict, attributable to soldiers from both the TPLF and coalition forces.

In light of these abuses being made present to the greater international community, pertinent calls for justice have been made at both the United Nations and supranational bodies such as the G7.
"It is essential that there is an independent, transparent and impartial investigation into the crimes reported and that those responsible for these human rights abuses are held to account," the G7 released in a public address. The group noted that "All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law," emphasizing the imperativeness of combating the abuses at hand.

Most refugees, fearing possible retribution, continue to be hesitant to voice their fears on the ongoing Tigray conflict. "How can I feel safe here?" a man named Natnael questioned. "There are many militias around the camp." The other limited words that have trickled out of Ethiopians’ mouths have echoed such sentiments, as government-enforced disappearances and acts of physical and sexual violence have all but pervaded firsthand accounts from Ethiopian refugees.

With relief camps and humanitarian facilities all but ransacked by the conflict and dire assistance being required to find pragmatic courses of action, including punishing responsible offenders, it is of great importance that significant action is taken to international courts to condemn past and present violations of the Human Rights Charter.

That being the case, it is heavily recommended that mediation and conflict-reducing dialogue between regional forces under the supervision of supranational bodies be enforced to prevent further acts of violence against civilians. Should conditions not be fulfilled with the proper due diligence, this may warrant the use of conscious deterrents in the form of economic sanctions and asset freezing to further dissuade the Ababa regime’s involvement in domestic human rights abuses. Only by doing so can future consequences of the Tigray conflict be best mitigated.

Works Cited
“Ethiopia: Eritrean Forces Massacre Tigray Civilians.” Human Rights Watch, HRW, 5 Mar. 2021,

“Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict: World Powers Condemn 'Human Rights Abuses'.” BBC News, BBC,
2 Apr. 2021,

“Eritrean Refugees Caught in Crossfire of Ethiopia's Tigray War.” Voice of America, VOA, 3 Feb.

“G7 Warns of Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia's Tigray.” DW, Deutsche Welle, 4 Feb. 2021,

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