A gruesome video allegedly filmed by a whistleblower in the Ethiopian Army shows what appears to be Ethiopian troops executing an estimated 34 unarmed men in the Tigray region in January, the US-based Tigrai Media House reported.
“Why don’t you come close and film the execution of these?” one soldier can be heard telling the whistleblower during the video.
According to the International Criminal Court, extrajudicial execution of unarmed individuals is considered to be a war crime.
Later, the video shows prisoners walking in a line as one soldier instructs others to shoot them in the head, before still images show soldiers kicking several corpses off of a small cliff.
Soldiers can be heard urging others to minimize the use of ammunition, while confirming no prisoners are left alive. All 34 prisoners seen in the video have been presumed dead.
An analysis of the video published by CNN in collaboration with Amnesty International seemed to corroborate the video, finding that it had indeed featured soldiers in Ethiopian Army uniforms, with the surrounding landscape seeming to line up with an area of central Tigray which had recently reported a massacre.
In addition, the analysis found that the soldiers in the video were speaking the Ethiopian language Amharic, which is not typical of the local region, though it is largely spoken only in Ethiopia.
According to CNN, the video is estimated to have been recorded around January 15, 2021, though the news organization could not confirm the exact date.
A man from the mountain town of Mahibere Dego in central Tigray, told CNN that he believes he identified his younger brother in the video, recognizing the clothes he wore the last time they had met, on the same day of the massacre.
“Since we didn’t see his body with our own eyes and bury our brother ourselves, it’s hard for us to believe he’s dead. It feels like he’s still alive, we can’t accept his death,” the brother told CNN. “We will always remember him.”
INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE GROWING
The United States, Germany, France and other G7 countries called on Friday for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Ethiopia’s federal army ousted the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the capital Mekelle in November.
Thousands of people died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region. The government says most fighting has ceased but there are still isolated incidents of shooting.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week Eritrea has 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 conflict.
The G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed their concerns in a joint statement.
“All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law,” they said.
“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,” the ministers said.
They said the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray must be swift, unconditional and verifiable and that a political process acceptable to all Ethiopians should be set up that leads to credible elections and a national reconciliation process.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in March it was ready to work with international human rights experts to conduct investigations on allegations of abuses.