The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for the immediate release of around 9,000 Tigrayans who are held ‘illegally and unconstitutionally’ since December 2020 in Semera and Agatina camps in Afar, Ethiopia.
A recent report by EHRC shows the detainees were taken from Abala, Koneba and Berhale, in connection with the civil war.
Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been embroiled in a civil war with federal forces since November 2020 after the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked a key Ethiopian military base in the region.
EHRC noted that the detainees were taken by the Afar regional state security forces, in collaboration with the zonal and woreda authorities, and transported them on different days to the camps.
According to the EHRC report, local authorities said they were held for the purpose of ‘their own security’ and in connection with ‘suspicion of crimes’.
The EHRC’s report also captured several disturbing cases inside the Semera camp, including accounts of Tigrayans who have died of diseases; a mother who lost a child during birth and children aged four to five, who are suffering from an epidemic of skin diseases; the contagious spread of which has threatened the remaining detainees in the camp due to lack of medical treatment.
‘The detainees in Semera and Agatina camps in Semera, Afar Region, should be released immediately as they are detained illegally and arbitrarily based on ethnic identity’, EHRC Chief Commissioner, Daniel Bekele, said.
‘If there are people who want to stay in the camp until they return to their places of residence, it must be done voluntarily and without any restrictions.
‘All those who wish to voluntarily return to their place of residence or remain in their current location should also be given the necessary support and assistance’.
Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) had also accused Amhara regional security forces and civilian authorities in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray zone of committing widespread abuses against Tigrayans.
According to the organisations, administrators in Western Tigray and Amhara Special Forces – a regional paramilitary force – undertook a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayan residents of the area.
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