Museum Warns of Heightened Risk of Genocide, Mass Atrocities in Ethiopia

Museum Warns of Heightened Risk of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Ethiopia's Tigray Region

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The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply concerned about further crimes against humanity and a heightened risk of genocide in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The situation has deteriorated exponentially as Ethiopian security forces, supported by Eritrean forces and Amhara special forces, have seized key towns and cities imperiling vulnerable Tigrayan civilians.


As we warned a year ago, “Multiple warnings signs of potential genocide against the Tigray people are present: reports of massacres and other targeted killings of Tigrayan civilians, dehumanization and hate speech—amplified on social media—encouraging violence against members of the group, mass arrests and arbitrary detention, and possible collective punishment in the form of a human-made famine in the Tigray region.” These risks have only grown and our Early Warning Project has consistently ranked Ethiopia as one of the top-ten highest-risk countries in the world for a new onset of mass killing.


“News of the peace talks are a positive step, but it is critical to recall that mass atrocities often continue to be perpetrated while negotiations are ongoing. Similarly, there is often a failure to recognize that the invocation of ‘fighting a civil war’ is used by actors to hide persecutory intentions and actions. While the focus of policy makers has been elsewhere, close to half a million people are reported to have been murdered or died as a result of forced starvation. Tigrayan women and girls have suffered widespread sexual violence—including, rape, gang rape, and sexual mutilation,” said Naomi Kikoler, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.


Ethnic-based targeting and the commission of mass atrocities have been an intentional strategy of parties to the conflict between the Ethiopian and regional Tigrayan governments and their allies that began November 2020. In the past two years crimes against humanity and war crimes have been perpetrated with impunity. These crimes include murder, rape, sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts. There is growing evidence of sexual slavery and forced pregnancy.


Parties to the conflict must immediately cease the targeting of civilians and seek a resolution to the conflict. Every effort needs to be made to reduce the capacity of, and impose costs on, those who commit mass atrocities. This includes social media companies, who must stop incitement to violence and the demonization of communities on their platforms. Support needs to be given to investigate and document crimes as part of a commitment to carving a path towards accountability for the perpetrators and justice for victims and survivors. The commission of these mass atrocity crimes, and the failure to prevent them or protect civilians thus far, is a stain on our human conscience.