Drag the TPLF in front of the International Criminal Court!

I’ve been swapping emails with the University of Gondar this week. It’s sent me a few details of their horrific findings over the mass graves of TPLF victims discovered in Welkait, where Jemal Countess and Betty Sheba Tekeste spoke to witnesses and survivors.

For the now infamous site called Gehanem (“Hell”), I was told “this was the place where the TPLF did mass detention and mass killings from 1982–1992.” A decade worth of barbarism before the terrorist group had even started their vice-like control over the whole country.

TPLF operatives had mass graves dug around the Kalema River, and they would “systematically excavate and add the victim bodies to the river during the summer season when the water volume was at a maximum level. Other witnesses in the area also reported that finding human bones along the of the Kalema River downstream was a common experience.”

Because the figure of “59,000 people” has been circulating around social media posts, I wanted to check the number. The researchers reported back that the number was confirmed by two witnesses who overheard a radio communication of TPLF leaders sent from the concentration camp to their superiors.

But what is to be done about this? Last time I checked, not a single mainstream media operation in the West has given this story any attention, even though the discovery was made by a research team of a fully reputable university. Instead, in between the wall-to-wall carnage of Ukraine, the Western media did find time to devote space to the joint Amnesty-Human Rights Watch report over alleged Ethiopian and Amhara war crimes in Welkait — what TPLF kingpin Getachew “Jabba” Reda and useful idiots at the Guardian and the New York Times keep mislabeling “Western Tigray.”

And the timing of the joint report sure is damn interesting. We’ll get to the possible why in a moment, but the report itself will hopefully one day be an exhibit in a court case that proves what sham operations both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are. Consider that the guy taking point on the report for public chats and promotion is Fisseha Tekle, who is reportedly the son-in-law of TPLF founding father Sibhat Nega, who was released as a political prisoner in January.

And of course, we’ve all seen this cozy, conflict-of-interest reunion, in which the top propagandists have a Zoom meet with Amnesty and HRW big cheeses.

The bias in the work is so shamelessly on display, you got to wonder how they ever expected anyone to take it seriously. For instance, in the report’s Recommendations, the Ethiopian and Amhara regional authorities are asked to “immediately demobilize and disarm all abusive irregular forces present in Western Tigray since November 2020 such as Fano and other militias.” The language for the TPLF is noticeably different: “Direct Tigrayan forces to immediately cease all abuses against civilians and captured combatants and adopt measures to deter and appropriately punish commanders and fighters who have committed serious human rights abuses.” Notice that there’s no equal call for them to disarm. Why not?

But let’s circle back to the question of why all this attention is suddenly on Welkait. Well, it can’t be accidental, and it isn’t. According to a trusted source, the TPLF have retained two different international law firms to help it try to launch a case against the Ethiopian government in the International Criminal Court. If successful, this will make a hell of a spectacle — a terrorist organization manipulating an international court into trying its victim.

But Ethiopia — just like the United States — is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the treaty that gives the ICC its jurisdiction. Does the TPLF and its allies care? Not at all. Because this is yet again another public relations exercise for the terrorist group to get its hands on what it wants. And since it’s no longer in a position to gobble up all of Ethiopia again, it’ll settle for taking Welkait as compensation for “war crimes,” getting what regular Tigray doesn’t have in abundance — fertile land — plus the opportunity to cause yet more border havoc.

There is one way to fight this. Do exactly the same thing.

There is certainly an abundance of evidence — genuine evidence, as in survivor testimony, witness statements, the skeletal remains which will surely tell their stories further through forensic study — for a case of war crimes to be made against the leaders of the TPLF.

Consider that we already have the true story behind the Mai Kadra massacre, which has also been meticulously put together by researchers at the University of Gondar.

We have the wanton destruction of hospitals and university campuses in Wollo, which I have seen for myself and reported on.

We have the TPLF occupation of a world heritage site, Lalibela, and their forces putting it at risk by stationing forces and artillery nearby.

We have the use of child soldiers shamelessly advertised and promoted by a callous Western media, including the New York Times.

And on top of all the other crimes — the rapes, murders, destruction of schools and monasteries — let’s not forget the thousands of soldiers murdered by the TPLF in the November 3, 2020 attack on army bases — especially now that the TPLF’s thesis of having been “surrounded” just prior to their Northern command attack has been debunked.

I mentioned above how Ethiopia is not a signatory of the Rome Statute. Neither for that matter is the TPLF, which will surely use a sponsor nation, perhaps even more than one (my money is sadly on Ireland to be its dupe here), to push and promote its case before the court. But the institution of a war crimes tribunal, going all the way back to the Nuremberg Trials, was never conceived to be a blunt instrument for the political agenda of a single nation (or organization for that matter). The goal was supposed to be to exact justice on behalf of humanity.

Where is the humanity in letting a terrorist organization — which in its own founding document labeled one ethnic group its sworn enemy — get its way in the highest court of justice in the world? Where is the humanity in a terrorist group using vast financial resources, media manipulation, and the economic and legislative power of the United States acting on its behalf to try to exterminate a sovereign state? We can’t let this happen.

Decades ago, bones in Afar confirmed it was the cradle of humanity. Today, the bones found in Gehanem confirm that the TPLF will do anything to destroy the values of humanity.

We need a major groundswell of ordinary supporters, high-profile public figures and respected academics behind this initiative. For far too long, our “army” of supporters trying to rescue Ethiopia have been put on the defensive, forced to react to every stunt the TPLF pull. It’s time to take the public relations fight to the enemy and keep it there. They want to hire lawyers? Let’s get our own. They want a trial? Let’s give them one, with Debretsion and Getachew and the others in the dock. Finally answering for the crimes they committed, not only in this war but for close to thirty years while in power in Ethiopia.

Forget just starting a clever hashtag and posting on Twitter. File the damn legal briefs. Get it done.

Let’s see them in court. But on our terms, not theirs.

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Writer person. Books - Prevail, The Karma Booth, Gangs in Canada; in June 2021, Winged Bull, a bio of Henry Layard, the Victorian era’s Indiana Jones.

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Jeff Pearce

Jeff Pearce

Writer person. Books - Prevail, The Karma Booth, Gangs in Canada; in June 2021, Winged Bull, a bio of Henry Layard, the Victorian era’s Indiana Jones.

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