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Fact Checking the HRW Report on Alleged Crimes by Eritrean Forces in Tigray

Fact Checking Human Rights Watch Report
Fact Checking Human Rights Watch Report

Yet another report, this time from Human Rights Watch, regurgitating the lies and fabrications that have been making the rounds of the mainstream media outlets. This one seems to have taken the cue from all the fact-checking of the previous reports and tried to make it sound more convincing but as usual the facts prove that this too was just another cog in the well-oiled anti-Eritrean smear campaign being perpetuated by the likes of HRW, Amnesty, BBC, CNN and even the new kid on the block, Al Jazeera. 

Let’s look at a few of the obvious contradictions stated in the report. 

Fact 1: The report states the following: 

After Tigray militia and Axum residents attacked Eritrean forces on November 28, Eritrean forces, in apparent retaliation, fatally shot and summarily executed several hundred residents, mostly men and boys, over a 24-hour period.” 

“A man watched residents heading to the hill from his hotel: “I saw someone carrying two guns in his hands. He asked, ‘How do I shoot these guns?’ A little boy was joining the battle.” Later, he saw Eritrean snipers shoot at youth in the town and at those trying to get up the mountain. “The young boy who passed by the hotel earlier fell from the mountain,” the man said. “He wasn’t older than 12.” 

If indeed this is true, then why were the Tigray militia involving Axum “civilian” residents and why didn’t the civilians stay out of the conflict? Why does the report call them “residents” in one sentence when they are shooting at the [Eritrean] forces and suddenly switches them to being “innocent civilians” once the forces they shot at retaliate against them? What do forces that are under attack (by residents or not) do? They shoot back! Shouldn’t the guilty ones be the Tigray militia that, in all probability, were using these residents as human shields? Once a civilian “(be it a 12-year old boy) picks up a gun and engages in fighting, they are no longer civilians. HRW conveniently glosses over this. 

Fact 2: The report states: 

“The attacks in Axum followed weeks of fighting between the Ethiopian military and allied forces from the Amhara region and Eritrean troops against forces affiliated with the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.” 

As with all other reports being circulated, there is a distinct effort being made to split the Ethiopian Defence Forces along ethnic lines by claiming that it was the Amhara Region special forces and not the Ethiopian Army, etc. This is in line with the TPLF manifesto of dividing the country along ethnic lines. Amhara Forces or any other force that fought the TPLF under the Ethiopian flag are Ethiopian! They were under the command of the Ethiopian Army so reports like HRW’s trying to wedge a divide along ethnic lines is just an extension of the defunct-TPLF’s abhorrent ethnically-based divide and rule policy. 

Fact 3: The report states: 

“Between December 2020 and February 2021, Human Rights Watch interviewed by phone 28 witnesses and victims of abuses and their relatives in Axum and examined videos of attacks and their aftermath.” 

HRW doesn’t tell us who these 28 witnesses are, when and how they were interviewed except by saying it was over the telephone. It is assumed they must have conducted the interviews in Tigrigna so they must have used translators for this, who will in all probability be Tigrayans. How can one base such a serious report on the interviews – if one can even give it such credit – of 28 people, conducted over the phone, being translated by aggrieved Tigrayan translators and bring it forth as evidence? For all we know, there might not even have been 28 people interviewed. This would never see the light of day in an everyday court of law in any jurisdiction. 

In the same paragraph, HRW, it seems, having realised from the criticisms of the previous reports, decided that it would include video footage to support its allegations. It did provide videos but the videos do not show anything to even vaguely support their wild claims. In the video purported to show the fighting in Aksum, we see the Aksum skyline and very clear and distinct gunshots being fired. No clips of people running around shooting or being shot at, just the skyline and very clear gunfire sound. This is supposed to have been a recording of the actual fighting. It does not take a forensic expert to realise that the sound of the gunshots was superimposed on the video. Even if it wasn’t, all the video tells was that there were gunshots – not even shots fired in a fierce battle – just gunshots. Nobody is denying there was fighting going on, but to claim that this video proves what they are alleging shows just how much they are clinging to straw to push their agenda through. 

Fact No. 4 The report states: 

“Survivors consistently identified Eritrean troops by the vehicles bearing Eritrean license plates, their distinctive uniforms, the spoken dialect of Tigrinya, and their plastic “congo” shoes, worn by Eritrean forces since the liberation struggle.” 

Again HRW seems to have done its homework and corrected the version of the previous reports that claimed survivors identified the Eritrean forces because they were speaking Arabic. HRW now claims they were indeed speaking Tigrigna albeit a “spoken dialect”. While it seems strange to call a major language (one of the working languages of Eritrea) a dialect, nevertheless just because the forces were speaking a “dialect” of Tigrigna it doesn’t mean they were Eritrean forces. As for the “plastic “congo” shoes” that seemingly identified the Eritrean forces, did HRW not realise that in its never-ending effort to simulate and live up to the EPLF, the TPLF even went as far as to copy the “congo” and even establish a factory in Tigray that manufactures these sandals to this day? Anybody who has been to Tigray will see people going around wearing these sandals. So how can these be taken as proof of evidence? In fact, in one of the videos posted in this very HRW report, there is a Tigrayan person wearing these very sandals. 

The less said about the uniforms the better because not only have the two armies very identical looking uniforms but it is a well-documented fact that the TPLF manufactured uniforms similar to the Eritrean forces for this very purpose of attributing the atrocities they committed to the Eritreans. 

As for the Eritrean license plates, well how has it become so difficult to furnish photographic or video material of even at least one military truck with Eritrean license plates but it was seemingly easy to video the actual fighting? Wasn’t a single Eritrean truck damaged in the fighting or burnt that we can’t seem to even find a single photo of an Eritrean license plate? Or maybe, just maybe, they were not there in the first place! 

Lastly, even though the list could go on and on, Fact No. 5: The report further states: 

“Watch estimates that over 200 civilians were most likely killed on November 28-29 alone. Human Rights Watch also received a list of 166 names of victims allegedly killed in Axum in November, 21 of which correspond to the names of those killed on November 28 and 29 given by witnesses interviewed.” 

If HRW is really interested in the truth, then it would be well advised to examine this video of the celebration – albeit very subdued – of the festival of St. Mary of Zion, in Aksum, on November 30, 2020, a day after the horrific massacre is supposed to have occurred and the people were supposedly going around burying their dead and vultures and hyaenas eating the dead. How is it evenly humanely possible that none of the people attending this religious festival, aside from bemoaning the fact that the number of attendees was far less than previous years, did not even mention seeing dead bodies lying around the city? It is because, there weren’t any. The whole massacre story was created by the TPLF and its stooges to simply attack Eritrea and wedge a divide between Ethiopia and Eritrea. A common theme in the reports is a tendency to exonerate the Ethiopian army and put the blame on Eritrean and Amhara Forces – divide and conquer at it’s TPLF best! 

In closing, the report’s author, one Laetitia Bader, who has made living off the misery of others a profession, has included two letters that HRW has written to the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments asking, among other things, the rules of engagement of their forces in the Tigray conflict. Either this woman is suffering from some sort of “Tarzan-Jane Complex” where she thinks that as a white woman in the middle of the jungle of Africa, even the animals will be at her beck and call or she is suffering from illusions of grandeur and thinks that HRW is such a respected and revered NGO [that lives off donations and political donations including from substantial support of the now-defunct TPLF] that Addis Ababa and Asmara are going to even reply to her arrogant and racist letter. 

Peddling and regurgitating the same lies does not make them true. People might believe them but it doesn’t mean they are true. But then again, organization like HRW and their director aren’t really interested in the truth. The truth does not generate the revenue to pay their salaries and maintain the lifestyles they lead. 

As always, the truth will prevail! 

by Sara Isaias

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