G7 powers demand full investigation into Tigray atrocities

Ministers want a joint probe by the UN and Ethiopia to leave no stone unturned

TOPSHOT - People react as they stand next to a mass grave containing the bodies of 81 victims of Eritrean and Ethiopian forces, killed during violence of the previous months, in the city of Wukro, north of Mekele, on February 28, 2021. Every phase of the four-month-old conflict in Tigray has brought suffering to Wukro, a fast-growing transport hub once best-known for its religious and archaeological sites. 
Ahead of federal forces' arrival in late November 2020, heavy shelling levelled homes and businesses and sent plumes of dust and smoke rising above near-deserted streets. 
Since then the town has been heavily patrolled by soldiers, Eritreans at first, now mostly Ethiopians, whose abuses fuel a steady flow of civilian casualties and stoke anger with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Abiy. / AFP / EDUARDO SOTERAS

The US, Britain, Japan and other major democracies on Friday called for a “transparent and impartial” probe into accusations of civilian deaths, widespread rape and other abuses during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

A statement from the foreign ministers of the G7 group attacked human rights abuses that occurred after Ethiopia’s federal army pushed the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the capital Mekelle in November.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN have agreed to conduct a joint investigation into violence by all parties in the region, which has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

"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," said the G7 statement.

"We condemn the killing of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, indiscriminate shelling and the forced displacement of residents of Tigray and Eritrean refugees."

The call from the G7 – which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the US and the European Union – comes amid mounting evidence of atrocities committed by several armed forces in the region.

BBC Africa Eye investigators this week lifted the lid on an apparent massacre in northern Ethiopia carried out by members of the Ethiopian military in which more than a dozen detainees were marched to the edge of a cliff and shot at point-blank range.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week said neighbouring Eritrea had agreed to withdraw troops it had sent during the fighting into Ethiopian territory along their mutual border amid mounting reports of human rights abuses.

Eritrea has denied its forces joined the fighting.

The G7 ministers said Eritrea's withdrawal should be "swift, unconditional and verifiable".

"We call for the end of violence and the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray, and which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process," they added.