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TGAG Press Release on Tigray Genocide
September 3, 2021

Tigray Global Advocacy Group (TGAG) Principled Stand on the Concept and Practice of Genocide in the Context of the War in Tigray
The Tigray Global Advocacy Group (TGAG), like many other advocacies for the people of Tigray, has been engaged at the forefront of struggle in diplomacy and mobilization of high-ranking officials of respective governments around the world so that the latter can have a clear picture of the war conducted against Tigray by the combined forces of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), the Amhara Militia, the Eritrean mercenaries, and Somali forces, coupled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) drone attacks.

In due course of the eight months fierce battles in Tigray, the enemies of Tigray have virtually looted and destroyed the economic sectors, institutions of higher education, churches, mosques, monasteries, industries, peasant farmlands as well as modern mechanized and irrigation farms. They committed all sorts of atrocities including crime against humanity, aggression, rape, starvation as weapon of war, and genocide, but since some people, including Tigrayan officials, are not clear on the concept and practice of the crimes committed, TGAG will shoulder an historical responsibility to make ‘genocide’ intelligible, comprehensible, and understandable, and if there is no clarity on the definition of genocide, Tigray as a political entity may not be able to formulate and implement correct policies.

We begin with the etymology of the concept of ‘genocide’. The first person to come up with the origins of the word ‘genocide’ was the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin; according to Lemkin, the word ‘genocide’ consists of the Greek prefix genes (race or tribe), and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. The terminology of ‘genocide, thus, alludes to wiping out an entire race or tribe, and in some instances a religious group.

The systematic killing or extermination of a race or tribe was later recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 (A/RES/96-1), in which the UN affirmed for the first time that genocide was a crime in international law. Subsequently, the Genocide Convention has been ratified or accepted by 152 states as of July 2019, following the codification of the crime in the 1948 convention.

TGAG is cognizant of the significance of the Geneva Convention characterization of genocide: “The Genocide Convention established on state parties the obligation to take measures to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, including by enacting relevant legislation and punishing perpetrators, ‘whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

In a similar vein, the International Criminal Court (ICC) codified genocide as an independent crime by its Rome Statute (Article 6); moreover, there is ‘obligation to punish genocide’ (Article I); obligation to ensure that effective penalties are provided for persons found guilty of criminal conduct according to the Convention (Article V); obligation to try persons charged with genocide in a competent tribunal of the state in the territory of which the act was committed, or by an international tribunal with accepted jurisdiction (Article VI).

Long before the ICC was established, Louis Henkin et al, distinguished professors emeritus of Columbia University and experts in international law, discussing ‘international crimes and international delicts’ in the context of ‘International Law Commission Draft Convention on State Responsibility’, pointed out, among many other elements of Article 19, “a serious breach on a widespread scale of an international obligation of essential importance for safeguarding the human being, such as those prohibiting slavery, genocide, apartheid.” These professors greatly contributed to the definition of genocide as the TGAG understands it and as ICC adopted it.

In order to have further clarity on the concept and practice of genocide, thus, the TGAG enumerates the five component parts and eleven crimes associated with genocide as per Rome Statute and the Geneva Convention:

a) Killing members of the group [of a given race or tribe]
b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group
d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births of the group
e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

And the eleven crimes are:

2. Murder
3. Torture
4. Imprisonment
5. Rape
6. Sexual violence
7. Persecution on ethnic grounds
8. Forcible transfer of population
9. Forced disappearances of persons
10. Deliberate inhumane act
11. Aggression

From the above constituent parts of genocide, the concept and practice of the crime is not limited to a wholesale massacre or extermination of a race; any of the component parts like torture, rape, and aggression are also attributable to genocide, and it is due to this lack of clarity that some officials in Tigray are hesitant to utter the word ‘genocide’ or articulate the concept in the context of Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute.

We at the TGAG do not harbor any illusion with respect to the practice of genocide in Tigray and we have overwhelming documentary and video evidence on the perpetration of the crime, not to mention testimonials of survivors of the crime. The TGAG has compiled videos, still photos, articles, news dispatches, and relevant documentary evidence of the crimes committed against the people of Tigray, and our findings of the genocide and crimes against humanity in Tigray have been corroborated by major media outlets and institutions such as CNN, BBC, AP, Reuters, the European External Program – Africa, the ICRC, and Doctors without Borders. Incidentally, TGAG has a list of the places where genocide was committed: Mai Kadra; Zalambessa and its outskirts; Irob district; Mariam Dinglat Church near Edaga Hamus; Mariam Tsion Church in Aksum; the vicinity of Mariam Tsion Church including Mai Koho, Aksum University, Arbaetu Ensesa Church, Brana Hotel, and Abune Aregawi Church; Mahbere Dego; Debre Abay Village and monastery; Worq Amba, Qola Tembien district; Debre Damo Monastery; Edaga Arbi; Hawzen, and the shooting and extra judicial executions in all Tigray, including the massacre of 200 people in Hawzen and buried in a mass grave, and as we prepare this press release to the public, many more mass graves with thousands of human remains are being discovered.

The TGAG would like to send a piece of advice to the officials of the government of Tigray to produce a briefing or white paper (official policy) on genocide in Tigray so that the perpetrators of the crime stand before a competent court of law such as the ICC. As far as we are concerned implicit assent to ‘crime against humanity’ and/or ‘war against identity’ are untenable and they contradict the concept and practice of genocide. Moreover, simplifying genocide to the level of challenging identity is a charm that TGAG is not ready to embrace, and we have a mission to accomplish by bringing the perpetrators of genocide either before the ICC or before a local court after the war is over; we also have a mission to hunt down the escapee and hiding perpetrators wherever they may be! We call upon diaspora sister organizations, political parties and civic organizations back home to support the mission and objectives of TGAG.

On behalf of TGAG
Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD