Dear Mr. Prime Minster,
During your address to the Ethiopian Parliament, yesterday, 30th November, 2020, regarding the war in Tigray, you are reported to have said, “The people of Eritrea have proven to us that not only are they are our brothers and sisters, but also they stood by us in our time of need.”
We would like to ask why and how Eritrean military forces came to be present in Tigray, fighting against Ethiopian citizens? Tigray is a regional state of Ethiopia; only Ethiopian troops should be present in Ethiopia. Eritrea is a separate country, with clearly defined international border with the Tigrayan regional state of Ethiopia. Eritrea is supposed to have signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia.
Why should a state at peace with its neighbour be sending military forces onto its neighbour’s territory? How can you call this the action of “brothers and sisters when they are fighting your own citizens who in fact are your real brothers and sisters? The fighting in Tigray is not Eritrea’s war. How can the intervention ordered by Isaias Afewerki represent the wishes of the Eritrean people when they never elected him and were in no way consulted? The presence of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray is an illegal act of military interference in another country’s internal dispute, to which the people of Eritrea have not consented.
What possible justification in international law can there be for Eritrean forces, both infantry and mechanised divisions to be involved in the civil war in Tigray? How can this be called “standing by us in time of need”? Military action against local citizens and refugees in another state’s territory cannot, even with the greatest stretch of the imagination, be regarded as appropriate action for a state which has concluded a peace agreement. This is not peace keeping, it is peace breaking.
The presence of Eritrean military on Ethiopian soil could only have occurred with your full permission, and, to be frank, the connivance, as head of the Ethiopian government. No one has officially acknowledged the sacrifice of thousands of Eritrean forces including conscripts in Tigray. Eritrea has not admitted it. Yet numerous witnesses both in Tigray and within the Eritrean military have confirmed that Eritrean forces are in action alongside Federal Ethiopian armed forces. Why the secrecy? If the Eritrean military is present legitimately, why is this not recognised officially? In addition, the purposes of the Eritrean intervention in Tigray not only appear highly suspect, but, in the light of their recent actions, illegal and criminal.
It is reported that Ethiopian military forces have taken positions in Tigray province all round the Refugee camps, Hitsats, Mai-Aini, Adi-Harush and Shemelba, supposedly to ensure their protection. But it now appears that the Ethiopian military has stood by and allowed free access to the camps by large numbers of Eritrean military personnel. It is reliably reported that over 6,000 Eritrean refugees
have been abducted by the Eritrean military and are being forcibly returned to Eritrea. The abduction is continuing. This inaction by Ethiopian forces has aided the commission of a crime by agents of Isaias Afewerki.
Mr. Ahmed, these defenceless refugees are your responsibility. You are mandated under international law to protect these refugees, by virtue of the fact that they have applied for asylum in your country, where they have claimed sanctuary. What possible justification can you cite for allowing desperate refugees to be abducted by the very armed forces from whom they fled, facing the immediate threat of being imprisoned, tortured and possibly killed when returned to Eritrea? How can you possibly justify this dereliction of duty as the Head of State, responsible for their safety? It is incomprehensible to the watching world how the holder of a Nobel Peace prize can invite foreign military forces into a part of Ethiopia to attack its own citizens, while allowing such criminal abductions to take place and still claim to be an upholder of peace?
We call upon you now to change policy, to intervene immediately, and order your troops to block all access to refugee camps by Eritrean military or other personnel. It is essential that you guarantee the complete safety of every refugee within Ethiopia, and open up safe supply routes to the camps in Tigray for food and medicine to reach them.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)