Sexual violence used as weapon in Tigray war, says Amnesty

Published : August 11, 2021 19:17 IST

The conflict in Tigray has been going on since November 2020. Photo: Ben Curtis / AP

Rights group Amnesty International said the brutality against women could amount to "war crimes," with hundreds raped in the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

Ethiopian and Eritrean troops raped hundreds of women and girls during the Tigray war, Amnesty International said in a report on August 11.

The human rights group released its report as Ethiopian law enforcement officials investigate the said violations, with at least three soldiers convicted and 25 others charged. "It's clear that rape and sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on women and girls in Tigray," said Amnesty's Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

"The severity and scale of the sexual crimes committed are particularly shocking, amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity."

What did the report say?

Amnesty said it based its report on interviews with 63 sexual violence survivors in the restive region between March and June. Some survivors said they had been sexually assaulted by multiple men who held them captive for weeks. Others described being raped in front of their family members.

Amnesty said some interviewees reported "lasting and possibly irreparable damage" to their reproductive organs as a result of the violence. "They raped us and starved us. There were too many who raped us in rounds," said one 21-year-old survivor who reported being held for 40 days.

"We were around 30 women they took... All of us were raped." According to the report, health facilities in Tigray registered 1,288 sexual violence cases from February to April 2021 alone, but the number of unreported cases is likely to be higher.

What is happening in Tigray?

In November 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government launched an eight-month military offensive against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which had been in power in the region until then. Neighboring Eritrea has been involved in the conflict at Abiy's side from the start.

In June, the central government in Addis Ababa announced an unexpected unilateral ceasefire, which did not stop the fighting. According to the United Nations, some 170,000 people have been displaced in the recent months alone.

Ethiopia's attorney general's office said in May that three soldiers were convicted and sentenced for rape. Another 25 troops were charged with "committing acts of sexual violence and rape," it said, adding that investigations were ongoing.

fb/aw (AFP, dpa, EPD)