Three Ethiopian soldiers were convicted of rape and one of killing a civilian in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, government said, the first public statement on soldiers guilty of crimes against civilians in the conflict.
Twenty-eight more soldiers are on trial for killing civilians and 25 for acts of sexual violence and rape, a statement from the attorney general’s office said.
Ethiopia’s government is under increasing pressure to demonstrate accountability as reports of atrocities in Tigray mount. The European Union suspended budget support payments amid reports of brutal gang rapes, mass civilian killings and widespread looting in the northern region.
Conflict erupted over six months ago between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party previously ruling Tigray. Days after fighting began, forces from neighbouring Amhars and Eritrea sent in troops to support Ethiopian soldiers.
The UN said war crimes may have been committed by all parties in the conflict.
Ethiopia’s military and federal prosecutors are investigating other alleged crimes, including in Axum, the statement said. In February, Amnesty International said Eritrean troops killed hundreds of Tigray civilians there in late November and described the incident as a potential crime against humanity.
“The investigation indicates a total of 110 civilians were killed on these dates by Eritrean troops” in Axum, the government statement said, including 40 killed in home raids.
The statement differed from an earlier statement earlier on the Axum killings. On May 10, the attorney general’s office said preliminary evidence indicated 93 people were killed with the “great majority” TPLF combatants out of uniform.
Friday’s statement noted “some individuals might have been irregular combatants.”
Suspects in the ongoing Axum investigation will soon be identified, the statement said, without providing detail on co-operation from the Eritrean military, whose troops are accused of the killings.
Ethiopia and Eritrea denied Eritrea’s presence in Tigray for months despite eyewitness accounts.
Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh declined to comment on the report findings or on whether Eritrea planned its own investigation into possible wrongdoing by its soldiers.
Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Eritrean troops committed human rights abuses in Tigray and urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to push for their withdrawal.