The Ethiopian government has lifted the prosecutorial immunity covering the President of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), meaning he is no longer protected from facing criminal charges.
The decision came after the Ethiopian Parliament voted to have 39 TPLF leaders, led by President Dr Debretsion Gebremichael, face the law.
The government has also announced a transitional government to take over the “rescued” areas of the northern federal region.
The TPLF leader has been a member of Ethiopia's House of Representatives alongside Getachew Reda, Asmelash Woldesellassie and Abay Tsehaye, who were all stripped of immunity, according to a statement released by the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office.
The move means TPLF's leaders can no longer use their parliamentary privilege to dodge the law. The statement, however, did not clarify what criminal charges the 39 will face, although the Ethiopian government has already declared TPLF an extremist group.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Kenea Yadeta said the military had already “rescued” certain regions of Tigray and will be installing a transitional government to manage affairs there.
“The transitional administration will be formed in parts of the Tigray Regional State that have been set free from the extremist group of TPLF,” Kenea said, according to a report by the Ethiopian News Agency.
Kenea said the provisional leadership and the TPLF fighters caputured will be handled by the committee on the State of Emergency in Tigray.
The Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week launched what it called a law enforecement operation targeting TPLF leaders, accusing them of attacking a military command run by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces. TPLF denies the attack happened.
But the operation has seen the ENDF launch aerial attacks on Tigray, forcing thousands of civilians to flee into neighbouring Sudan.
On Thursday, however, the Dr Abiy’s Office said it was also fighting fake news including exaggerations on the number of civilians affected by the operation.
Claims also emerged that authorities were detaining anyone from the region, including family members of those seen as ringleaders of TPLF.
“The rule of law enforcement operation does not target individuals based on identity as being purported,” the PM said.
Kenea had earlier told a news conference that the false information as being spread by TPLF to gain sympathy and soil the name of Ethiopian security agencies.
"We urge everyone including reputable international organisations to refrain from sharing unsubstantiated data and statistics on current operations, that does not reflect the reality on the ground."
TPLF on Wednesday claimed the Ethiopian government was involved in ethnic cleansing of the Tigray people and called on the international community to help stop the operation.
With authorities shutting down communication channels in the region, however, it has become difficult to verify claims from both sides.