From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Nov 30 2008 - 13:31:20 EST
Ethiopia rebels slam government probe into abuses
Sun 30 Nov 2008, 15:41 GMT
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
NAIROBI, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Ethiopia's Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel movement has slammed a government investigation refuting claims of war crimes against the people of a marginalised eastern region it operates in.
Ethiopian authorities on Wednesday said a government-funded probe showed a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that found it liable of abuses during a campaign against the ONLF, was fabricated.
"The reality of the matter is that the Ethiopian regime has committed war crimes in the Ogaden and is continuing to commit such crimes with impunity," a statement by the rebels said.
"At the same time Ethiopia is actively engaged in trying to conceal such crimes and the real purpose of these teams that it claims to have sent to the Ogaden was to insure that no traces are left."
HRW issued two reports in June that it said documented attacks on civilians in the arid region, one based on witness accounts and another on satellite imagery showing burnt-out villages during a year-long military offensive.
Ethiopia said HRW's claims were fabricated because it found villages that the rights body said were burnt by government troops untouched, and people allegedly killed, alive and well.
Villagers and elders also denied allegations of extra-judicial killings, rape or torture by the security forces, the Ethiopian investigators' report said.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government accuses the ONLF movement of being terrorists supported by arch-foe and neighbour Eritrea.
It launched the offensive in April 2007 after ONLF rebels attacked Chinese-run oil fields in the remote region also known as Somali, killing more then 70 people.
"If Ethiopia has nothing to hide, let it allow free access to international media and independent international investigators from reputable organisations to conduct an impartial investigation," the ONLF said.
(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Sophie Hares)
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