NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – Some Ethiopian Catholic Church sources have corroborated a report by two international human rights groups detailing widespread abuses in the western part of the Tigray region.

The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report was released on April 6, days after the government announced a humanitarian truce to allow relief to reach thousands of people at risk of starvation. Catholic officials in Addis Ababa welcomed the ceasefire, even as the fighters – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – agreed to abide by the ceasefire.

The report, “We Will Erase You from This Land: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone,” says officials in Western Tigray and security forces in the neighboring Amhara region – with possible involvement of Ethiopian federal forces – have systematically expelled several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from the region, using threats since 2020.

Authorities have restricted travel, humanitarian aid, the Tigrinya language and access to agricultural land. Crops, livestock and equipment were looted.

Other documented abuses include unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass arbitrary detentions, looting, forcible transfers and denial of humanitarian aid.

“Ethiopian authorities have strongly denied the shocking scale of the crimes that have unfolded and have clearly failed to address them,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

A church source who could not be named for security reasons told Catholic News Service: “It’s a very good report…of what’s happening in western Tigray, but the presence and the abuses of the Eritrean government in the region must be highlighted”.

“The style of concentration camps and extrajudicial executions is the style of the Eritrean government. Some people say that those in charge of the detention camps are the Eritrean military and security (forces).

Western Tigray is a fertile administrative area of ​​the Tigray region, but its border and identity have been at the center of conflicts since 1992. Two weeks after the start of the Tigray conflict, Western Tigray came under the control of the army Ethiopian National, Allied Forces and Amhara Region Militia.

The report recorded killings, although a church source thought it should have included more. For example, according to the report, on January 17, 2021, Amhara militias known as Fanos and local residents rounded up and detained dozens of male Tigrayan residents of the town of Adi Goshu, on the shores of the Tekezé River. The soldiers rounded up and summarily executed about 60 Tigrayan men.

In detention camps in Tigray, many former detainees held in sites run by Amhara forces and Fano militias have died as a result of torture, denial of medical treatment, and lack of food and water. Others were killed by guards, according to the report. Some local media reported that local authorities were moving mass graves to erase evidence of the massacre.

“The response from Ethiopia’s international and regional partners has not reflected the gravity of the crimes that continue to unfold in Western Tigray,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

The organizations want the Ethiopian government to guarantee immediate and sustained access to the region for humanitarian agencies, the release of all detainees, and investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the abuses.

The two organizations suggest the deployment of an international peacekeeping force led by the African Union to protect civilians, allow the delivery of aid and protect communities at risk, but some church sources have expressed caution. .

“The AU had already sided with Ethiopia and especially Eritrea at their annual meeting in Addis Ababa, when they commended Eritrea for the peace works in Ethiopia,” the AU warned. source of the church.