The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that government forces were responsible for burning a Tigrayan man alive, a barbaric act widely-circulated in an online video that sparked outrage on social media.
The Ethiopian government on Saturday said it will act against the perpetrators after the video emerged on social media showing armed men, some in military regalia, burning civilians to death in the west of the nation.
According to a statement by Ethiopia’s communication service on its Facebook page, the incident occurred in the Ayisid Kebele of Metekel zone in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, a site of regular ethnic violence for over a year in which hundreds of civilians have died.
“A horrific and inhumane act was recently committed … In a series of horrific images circulated on social media, innocent civilians were burned to death,” the statement read.
On Sunday, the EHRC confirmed that the victim was a Tigrayan man who was “burnt alive… with the participation of government security forces and other people”.
The atrocity occurred on March 3 following an attack a day earlier that left at least 20 people dead, the state-affiliated independent rights body revealed.
Security officials later captured and shot dead eight Tigrayans suspected of involvement in that assault, it added.
“The bodies of the deceased were taken by security forces to a nearby forest and burned,” the EHRC said in a statement, citing an onlooker’s testimony.
“In between this, an ethnic Tigrayan who was suspected of having contact with the deceased, was arrested… and thrown (on the pyre) with the deceased, with him dying of fire burns,” the EHRC quoted eyewitnesses as saying.
“Those who were in the area were Ethiopian army soldiers, Amhara region special police forces and Southern region police forces,” the rights body said, calling for a criminal investigation.
The video could not be independently verified by Africa Equity Media and it was not immediately clear if the atrocity was tied to the ongoing 16-month war in northern Ethiopia.
In the video circulating online, some of the men in the crowd are seen wearing Ethiopian military uniforms as well as uniforms from other regional security forces.
The Military spokesperson Col Getnet Adane and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu are yet to comment on the video.
The violence in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, which is home to several ethnic groups, is separate from the war in the northern Tigray region that erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal forces and rebellious forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.