Recognize genocide in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, experts urge Canadian committee

People walk from a rural area toward a food distribution operation by the Relief Society of Tigray, near the town of Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 8, 2021. Ethiopia's warring sides have agreed to a permanent cessation of hostilities in a two-year conflict, negotiators announced this week. [Ben Curtis | Associated Press]

As a humanitarian official and health expert for three decades, Mukesh Kapila witnessed the horrors of genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur. Now he is trying to alert the world to another emerging genocide: this time in Ethiopia.

The doctor and scholar, who has written two books on genocide, is urging Canadian MPs to investigate crimes against humanity in the Tigray war in northern Ethiopia. He is one of a series of experts at a parliamentary committee in Ottawa who have called for Canadian legal action – including possible steps under international laws against genocide.

Despite a peace deal signed by Ethiopian and Tigrayan officials last week, it is still unclear whether the bloodshed will stop. Early signs suggest the ceasefire is already being violated, and a blockade of food and medicine has continued. The MPs say they will push ahead with their Tigray report as urgently as they can, spurred on by witnesses who described mass rapes and starvation.

“A lot of the testimony was gut-wrenching,” said Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, chairman of the Commons subcommittee on international human rights.

“It was extremely hard to listen to,” he told The Globe and Mail. “Testimony, for example, from physicians who treated women who were sexually abused in unspeakable ways. Shocking sexual violence as a means of terrorizing and brutalizing a population.”

He said the subcommittee is likely to issue a report or statement on Tigray within weeks, before Parliament breaks for the holidays next month.

“What the experts were saying at committee was that this meets the legal definition of genocide, so that must be taken very seriously,” he said.

Another MP on the subcommittee, NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson, said the members still need to reach a formal decision on their report, but the testimony has seemed compelling to her. “The testimony we’ve heard from experts, from victims, from Tigrayan civilians, all points very clearly to me toward a genocide taki