Rights group accuses Ethiopian officials of war crimes


By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s government is committing war crimes in its military campaign against rebels in the Ogaden region, a rights group charged Thursday in a report that complained the U.S. and other Western governments have remained silent about abuses.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Ethiopian troops are beating and strangling civilians, staging public executions and burning villages in Ogaden. It said the allegations were based on more than 100 eyewitness accounts.

An Ethiopian official denied the charges.

Washington looks to Ethiopia for help in the fight against Islamic extremists in East Africa, where al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people. Ethiopia is helping the U.N.-backed government in neighboring Somalia against Muslim insurgents.

Ethnic Somalis have been fighting for more than a decade seeking greater autonomy in the desolate Ogaden, which is being explored for oil and gas. Ethiopian forces stepped up operations after rebels attacked a Chinese-run oil exploration field in April 2007, killing 74 people.

“The Ethiopian army’s answer to the rebels has been to viciously attack civilians in the Ogaden,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

The group also said the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front has violated humanitarian law by conducting the oil attack and by setting land mines along roads. Ethiopia accuses the rebels of being financed by its archenemy, Eritrea.

Bereket Simon, special adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, denied all allegations in the report.

“It’s not true,” he said. “It’s the same old fabrication.”

Asked whether an internal investigation was planned, he said: “How can we investigate lies and innuendoes? How can we try to disprove lies by investigating?”

Gagnon chided Ethiopia’s leading donors, including the United States, Britai and the European Union, accusing them of ignoring what is happening in Ogaden.

“These widespread and systematic atrocities amount to crimes against humanity,” she said. “Yet Ethiopia’s major donors, Washington, London and Brussels, seem to be maintaining a conspiracy of silence around the crimes.”

Gagnon said Western governments and institutions give at least $2 billion in aid to Ethiopia every year.

“Influential states use many excuses, such as lack of information and strategic priorities, to downplay the grave human rights concerns in Somali Region,” she said. “But crimes against humanity can’t be swept under the carpet.”


3 comments on “Rights group accuses Ethiopian officials of war crimes

  1. samatar on

    Let the world knows the genocide that is happening in ethiopia and particularly in Ogaden,Oromo,Gambella and all other regions in eethiopia except in Tigrai region.The USA must stop financing this woyane gangs. Let the peace lovers of ethiopians unite and remove this woyane gangs that brought a shame in our country.

  2. Alem on

    This is too much for mother ethiopia .Let the suffrring of it’s people be over and the melse and his group be charged .
    Enough is enough!!

  3. Assta B. Gettu on

    In the old days, only two or three eye witnesses were required to prove that a crime had been committed in a certain time and at a certain location.

    Here, in our time, the Human Rights Watch has produced over 100 eye witnesses that Meles Zenawi has committed serious crimes by “staging public execution” against the people of Ogaden and the people of Somalia, and the world has done nothing to save the victims and punish the criminals because the United States, England, and Brussels have been supporting the Meles regime for more than 17 years. That is why the United Sates, England, and Brussels have given deaf ears to all sorts of crimes because they themselves have deeply involved in it. Their interest in the Horn of Africa has blinded their eyes to overlook Meles’ criminal activities in Ogaden, Somalia, Oromia, and in the Amhara region. They know what is going in the Horn of Africa, and they know who the criminals are but give no attention to the suffering of the Ogaden people.

    Charles Taylor of Liberia was accused of war crime and for selling arms to the rebels in Sierra Leone; has not Meles Zenawi committed more crimes than Charles Taylor: he has slaughtered his own people in the streets of Addis Ababa in 2005, and he is now maiming the hands of many Somalians and burning them alive. He has starved millions of Ethiopian children to death by lying to the news media that there is no famine in Ethiopia, so why Meles is not charged of war crime and many atrocities he has committed? It is time that Rights Group must press a charge against Meles Zenawi and against his political gangs as soon as possible before he slaughters more people from each Ethiopian region.

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