A Non-International Armed Conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Since November 2020, Northern Ethiopia is the theatre of a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) opposing the Ethiopian armed forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Reports also indicate that Eritrean troops are involved, supporting the central government and the Ethiopian army’s operations in Tigray.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis of this conflict, including information about parties, classification and applicable international law.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – inspired by Marxist-Leninism –was founded in 1975 in Dedebit, northwestern Tigray. In 16 years, the group succeeded in gaining control over the Ethiopian government and remained in power until early 2018 when demonstrations erupted in the country against the government’s corruption and repression of political opponents. Consequently, TPLF resigned and its officials moved to the Tigray region where TPLF has been training since then its own special military forces and a well-drilled local militia, amounting in total to around 250,000 troops.

Tensions have been escalating between the central government and TPLF since 2018 and resulted on 4 November 2020 in a military offensive against TPLF, launched in response to an attack conducted against a federal army base – although Tigray forces deny their involvement in this operation. Since then, fighting has been ongoing in the region.

‘Both the intensity of the armed violence opposing the Ethiopian armed forces and TPLF’s troops, as well as the level of organization of TPLF, allow us to conclude to the existence of a NIAC’ underlines Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

Consequence of the conflict in Tigray (woman walking out of a destroyed house

The Alleged Involvement of Eritrea and Spillover of the Conflict

Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of TPFL, accused Eritrea of helping the Ethiopian government, and claimed that ‘Eritrean soldiers are everywhere’. The presence of Eritrean troops has been confirmed by aid workers present in the region, notably UN and EU officials. As a reaction, TPLF has conducted armed attacks against Eritrea.

‘This capacity to carry out military operations outside the region under its control, for instance in the Eritrean capital, is but another example that TPLF is a well organized armed group that meets the international humanitarian law organizational threshold to classify this situation as a NIAC’ explains Dr Redaelli.
Nevertheless, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have denied any Eritrean involvement in the conflict.

‘Accordingly, it is premature to conclude that Eritrea is a party to this NIAC’ recalls Dr Redaelli.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Portrait of Joshua Niyo News

Our Teaching Assistant Joshua Niyo Moves to UCLA School of Law to Finalize his Doctoral Research

24 February 2021

Joshua Niyo received a one-year Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Doc.Mobility grant to spend a year at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law as Visiting Researcher.

Read more

Portrait of Emilie Charpentier in front of the ICRC Headquarters News

LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights: What our Students Say

2 February 2021

In this interview, Émilie Charpentier, currently enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (LLM) tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.

Read more

View of Villa Moynier Event

Open House: Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict

16 June 2021, 12:30-13:30

Join us for our open house to learn more about this part-time programme designed professionals, meet staff, students and alumni, and discuss career opportunities.

Read more

Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility. Inside a room where detainees of the prison, separated by an acrylic glass, are allowed to meet with their families a couple of times per year with the help of the ICRC employees who facilitate the programme. Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

Spring 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the extent to which states may limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter-terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

Read more

Syria, destroyed building and ambulance Short Course

Basic Principles of International Humanitarian Law

Fall 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, examines the sources of international humanitarian law (IHL). It provides an introduction to the key principles and terminology of IHL.

Read more

Screen Shot of Obsolete, a game made for the 7DFPS project in 7 days. Download for PC and Mac Project

Disruptive Military Technologies

Started in February 2020

Via a new lecture series on disruptive military technologies, this project aims at staying abreast of the various military technology trends; promoting legal and policy debate on new military technologies; and furthering the understanding of the convergent effects of different technological trends shaping the digital battlefield of the future.

Read more

Screenshot of the RULAC webpage Project

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC)

Started in May 2007

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

published on March 2021

Alice Priddy

Read more