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Open Letter to Prime Minsiter Giorgia Meloni

April 17, 2023

Deputy Chairman H.E. Lij Nebyat A. Demessie
Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause
4002 Blacksmith Dr.
Garland, TX 75044, U.S.A.

April 16, 2023

H.E. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
Prime Minister of Italy
Piazza Colonna, 370
00187 Rome, Italy

For the attention of H.E. Prime Minsiter Giorgia Meloni:

Your Excellency,

On October 31, 1922 a coup d’état known as the March on Rome was conducted by the National Fascist Party in the Kingdom of Italy. The Fascist’s reign of terror would last for more than twenty years under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. In 1930 Mussolini appointed Rodolfo Graziani as the Vice-Governor of Cyrenaica, deputy to General Badoglio and commander of the Italian forces in Libya to suppress the Senussi rebellion. Graziani was notorious for his ruthless brutality, and his creation of special courts known as the tribunal volanti earned him the appellations “the Hyena of Libya” and “the Butcher of Tripoli” amongst the Arabs. Sentences were executed in public; labor and concentration camps were constructed under his direct supervision. His forces blocked wells with cement and many of his Libyan opponents were cruelly thrown from planes to their deaths.

In February 1935 Graziani took command of the expeditionary forces in Italian Somaliland as governor-general as he attempted to rebuild his image by pursuing a much easier war in Ethiopia. Graziani is quoted as saying, “the Duce shall have Ethiopia with the Ethiopians or without them, as he pleases.” He dropped forty tons of high explosives on the town of Neghelle during his genocidal campaign. His indiscriminate use of illegal mustard gas has been thoroughly documented and he took pride in commanding the Libya Division which was known for not taking any prisoners. He was eventually appointed Viceroy of Ethiopia and Marshal of the Italian army when he arrived in Addis Ababa in May 1936.

After ordering the elimination of the rest of the imperial army and implementing a wide range of oppressive measures against the local nobility he was injured after becoming the target of an assassination attempt on Friday, February 19, 1937 during a charity event. An estimated 300 innocent people were shot and killed on that day including high clergy, members of the aristocracy, the poor, invalids, crippled beggars and the blind who were in attendance to receive alms. That night sixty-two Ethiopians were tried and shot at a military tribunal at the Alem Bekagn prison in Addis Ababa. Over the course of the next three days and three nights a period of brutal retribution known as the “Graziani Massacre” killed an estimated 30,000 people in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The victims were mostly civilians including women, children and the elderly who were locked inside their homes and set on fire.

People were mercilessly dismembered and the Blackshirts proudly posed for pictures of the heinous hangings, beheadings and tortures with their innocent victims’ bodies. Afterwards, Graziani openly ordered a countrywide series of executions which claimed the lives of thousands, particularly targeting community leaders, those who were connected with the aristocracy and especially the educated. Foreign-educated intellectuals who were members of the Young Ethiopians Association were hunted down and executed or deported to prisons in Somalia and Eritrea.

In May 1937 Graziani, believing that the monks at the historic Debre Libanos Monastery were aware and complicit of his assassination attempt, ordered the local commander Pietro Maletti to execute the entire monastic community: “Therefore execute summarily all monks without distinction including the Vice-Prior.” A small group of children on a nearby hill witnessed 2,033 innocent people rounded up, taken by trucks to the edge of the Fitche Shinkurt Mikael ravine and shot to death by machine gunners. Meanwhile Graziani deported hundreds of Ethiopian nobleman to Italy and imprisoned thousands in the concentration camps of Noqra and Denane where an estimated 3,175 Ethiopians were murdered. Graziani will forever be known as “the Butcher of Ethiopia.”

The bloodthirsty excesses of Graziani proved even too much for Mussolini who replaced him with the Duke of Aosta, Amedeo di Savoia, at the end of 1937. Graziani was then later reappointed general commander of the Italian army in Libya at the start of WWII. After the war, Graziani was sentenced to nineteen years imprisonment by an Italian jury for collaborationism but all of his charges were dropped shortly thereafter in 1950. It’s an absolute travesty and miscarriage of justice that this genocidal war criminal ended up serving only a few months in prison. After his release he wrote a number of books glorifying his crimes and fascist ideologies, even actively participating in the reestablishment of Fascism as one of the leaders of the neo-Fascist party Movimento Sociale Italiano.

On August 11, 2012 a memorial was erected to commemorate Rodolfo Graziani in a small town south-east of Rome called Affile. As we have written to the former Prime Minister Mario Monti and the government of Italy previously, Italy has long been a supporter of the victims of Nazism and Fascism thus this incredible insult to the memory of over 1,000,000 Ethiopian victims of genocide is incomprehensible. Even more appalling is the lack of official action and condemnation of the Graziani memorial. We, therefore, demand, in the name of justice and respect for human rights and humanity, that the Italian government dismantle this outrageous memorial and adjoining “park” immediately as it was constructed using public funds by the Italian government.

To this day, these war crimes remain unattended. Not one Italian has been brought to a tribunal to answer for the war crimes committed against Ethiopia. It is truly amazing to note that the United Nations has not even placed the war crimes in its records. It is as if all the devastating war crimes never happened. The world continues to turn a blind eye to the huge Fascist war crimes undertaken by a European power in an African country, Ethiopia, the only nation from the continent that was, at the time, a member of the League of Nations. The continued cry for justice is met with a stunning silence on the part of the main perpetrators: Italy and the Vatican.

 

The consequences of the Fascist war crimes in Ethiopia during 1935–41 were devastating. The huge losses that were incurred by Ethiopia included:

 

  1. One million Ethiopians killed of whom 30,000 were massacred in only three days in Addis Ababa in 1937;
  2. Huge quantities of Ethiopian properties were looted by the Italians; some of these properties are currently still in the possession of the Vatican and the Italian Governments;
  3. 2,000 churches and 525,000 homes as well as 14,000,000 animals were destroyed as a result of the bombing, fire, and the use of the mustard poison gas;
  4. The use of the internationally forbidden poison gas also had a devastating effect on the people and the environment.

 

Unfortunately, it is also a historic fact that representatives of the Catholic Church supported, participated in and even encouraged these brazen acts of genocide against the Ethiopian people calling the campaign a “holy war” and comparing it to the Crusades. Today we fight on for international recognition of the Ethiopian Genocide, restitution, and against the resurgence of fascist ideology. We petition the current Italian government for the following:

 

  1. Reparations by Italy for the huge losses incurred by Ethiopia including survivors and their heirs; Italy has never paid a penny in restitution to the victims of genocide.
  2. Return of looted cultural property, including priceless manuscripts, from ltaly and the Vatican Library.
  3. Dismantlement of the Graziani Park and Memorial in Affile which glorifies the war criminal Rodolfo Graziani.
  4. The official public denunciation, retroactive demotion and removal of all of Rodolfo Graziani’s titles, medals and honors.

 

Regards,

Deputy Chairman H.E. Lij Nebyat A. Demessie

Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause

1 Comment

  1. Excellent piece. The only exception that shows that the author too is subjected to Italian propaganda is this part:
    “In May 1937 Graziani, believing that the monks at the historic Debre Libanos Monastery were aware and complicit of his assassination attempt, ordered the local commander Pietro Maletti to execute the entire monastic community”.
    Instead of “believing”, author should say, “alleging” because the victim should not in anyway internalize the excuse of the aggressor. It is only to be expected that an aggressor would allege reasonable sounding excuses for his violent action.

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