In its January and February, 2021 reports on the human rights situation in Tigray, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC/the Commission), indicated that it has received reports of loss of lives, bodily and mental injury, instances of gender-based violence, looting and other human rights violations, including in areas of Tigray which it has not been able to access yet. EHRC also stated that it will continue to remotely monitor the human rights situation including in parts of Tigray that remained inaccessible at the time and that it will inform the public of its findings in due course. Citing an ongoing investigation into grave human rights violations in Aksum, its latest communication on February 26, 2021 further reported that it obtained preliminary evidence on destructions caused in the course of the military offensive in Aksum and the killings of unknown number of civilians by Eritrean soldiers.
The Commission has since then deployed a rapid investigation mission to Aksum from February 27 to March 5, 2021. Previous attempts by EHRC to access the city were impeded by the security situation and related issues. The rapid investigation mission spoke to survivors, 45 families of victims, eyewitnesses and religious leaders in thecity. It also conducted a focus group discussion with over 20 residents of the city and spoke with local Kebele officials as well as medical personnel of Saint Mary and Aksum Referral Hospitals. The mission also obtained material evidence including video, audio and photographs, from families of victims and relevant authorities. The Commission wishes to state that the full investigation will be informed by discussions with all relevant military and civilian authorities, including with the city’s mayor and deputy mayor, whom it was unable to reach during this mission.