Eritrean Armed Forces “Fighting Inside Tigray”

“Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) has received credible evidence that the Eritrean Armed forces including conscripts, have been sent to the Tigray region of Ethiopia and are engaged in heavy fighting with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Forces (TPLF), alongside the Ethiopian armed forces.”

Source: Human Rights Concern-Eritrea

 

Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) has received credible evidence that the Eritrean Armed forces including conscripts, have been sent to the Tigray region of Ethiopia and are engaged in heavy fighting with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Forces (TPLF), alongside the Ethiopian armed forces.

The TPLF fought a liberation struggle against Ethiopia in the last decades of the 20th Century, and later participated in the government of Ethiopia. More recently, there have been ongoing tensions between Ethiopia’s government and the TPLF, which controls Tigray, the country’s northernmost state. These tensions came to a head on 4th November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the Ethiopian military to march into Tigray, take control, and establish a 6-month State of Emergency.

Since, heavy fighting, including air strikes by federal forces, have resulted in widespread casualties, including amongst the civilian population.

It is now clear that Eritrean infantry and mechanised units are involved in the war in Tigray and have participated alongside the Ethiopian federal government forces, and it is reported that they have suffered heavy casualties.

Communications by phone and internet within Tigray have been completely shut down, so it is extremely difficult for information to reach the outside world. However, HRCE can now confirm that Eritrean armed forces are fighting inside Tigray. Not only have Eritrean Prisoners of War from Division 21 of the Eritrean army been interviewed by Tigrayan journalists, inside Tigray; HRCE’s conversations with reliable sources in Eritrea – persons who have brothers and sisters in Eritrean Army Units within Tigray – have also corroborate that Eritrean army divisions (including heavily armoured units) are at present fighting in Tigray.

The infantry units consist largely of inexperienced young National Service conscripts rounded up and forced to fight in a war for which they have little training or equipment and can see no purpose. It is understood that these troops are experiencing heavy casualties.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given the TPLF forces in Mekelle a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender, and he also said that “all the necessary precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that civilians are not harmed.” An Ethiopian military spokesperson is reported to have warned, “We want to send a message to the public in Mekelle to save yourselves from any artillery attacks and free yourselves from the junta…… After that, there will be no mercy.” The Ethiopian military plans to use tanks to encircle Mekelle, the capital of northern Tigray region, and is warning civilians it may also use artillery on the city.

It is difficult to imagine how artillery attacks can be so precise as to avoid harming civilians. In fact, many civilians, including Eritreans have already been killed and injured in government air strikes. Whether a policy of “No Mercy” to civilians can legitimately be pursued whilst observing the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1950) is debatable. The war may have already caused the deaths of thousands.

Similar humanitarian concerns arise with regard to thousands of internally displaced Tigrayans and up to 100,000 Eritrean refugees in four camps in Tigray, whose supplies of food and medicine have been entirely cut off by the military offensive, leaving them in danger of death by starvation.

Eizabeth Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, has issued the following statement:

  • “We unreservedly condemn the aggressive intervention of Eritrean armed forces in Tigray, a province in an independent nation. There can be no justification for this unwarranted interference, and the resultant and unnecessary deaths of soldiers on both sides. We call upon Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Tigray immediately.
  • The threat by the Ethiopian government to attack a major city with a huge civilian population with artillery is utterly reprehensible. No government has the right to bombard its own civilians indiscriminately in a bid to crush rebel forces. Such a threat is unacceptable and could lead to the commission of war crimes by the attacking forces.
  • It is essential that this regional constitutional dispute within Ethiopia be resolved by negotiation, in order to achieve what the Secretary General of the United Nations has termed “a peaceful resolution to the dispute”. A ceasefire must be declared immediately to enable peace negotiations to start.
  • It is essential that the safety and wellbeing of up to 100,000 Eritrean refugees within Tigray state be guaranteed and that supplies of food and medicine be allowed to get through to them.”

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Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

eritrea.facts@gmail.com

+44 7958 005 637

www.hrc-eritrea.org

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