Rape, Mutilation: Amnesty International submits report on gender-oriented crimes in Tigray

WION Web Team
Addis Ababa, EthiopiaUpdated: Aug 11, 2021, 06:50 PM IST


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In this report by Amnesty International, Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been accused of raping and mutilating a large number of women and girls during the Tigray war

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty International tells of the horrific abuse administered on women and girls in Tigray. 

This report alleges that Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have raped hundreds of women and girls during the Tigray war, with some also being mutilated and sexually slaved.

Based on interviews of 63 survivors, it shines new light on a case that Ethiopian authorities have already begun investigating.

In May, according to the office of the attorney general, three soldiers had been convicted of rape and sentenced to prison sentences, while another 25 had been charged with rape and sexual violence.  

Victims describe their ordeals. (TW: Graphic content)

Many survivors reported being gang-raped for days or weeks on end while being held captive. Others said being raped in front of their family members was the norm.

A number of women reported having nails and gravel inserted into their vaginal chambers, "causing lasting and possibly irreparable damage", Amnesty said. 

Amnesty's secretary-general Agnes Callamard says that "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,".

"Hundreds have been subjected to brutal treatment aimed at degrading and dehumanising them. 

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

The perpetrators

According to Amnesty, among those accused of rape are Ethiopian government's soldiers, troops from neighbour Eritrea and militia fighters from Ethiopia's Amhara region.

In addition to two dozen survivors who claim that Eritreans raped them, Amnesty has also received reports from survivors who claim that Eritreans and Ethiopians conspired.

"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." 

Why is the region in conflict?

There have been waves of violence in northern Ethiopia since November, when the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, led an invasion of Tigray to overthrow the regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). 

According to Abiy TPLF attacks on federal camps prompted him to make the move. Eritrea has been backing up Abiy, which led to their troops entering the grim picture. 

Due to the conflict, the humanitarian crisis has worsened greatly, with aid workers struggling to reach cut-off communities. UN officials estimate that 400,000 have been living in conditions that resemble famine.

Investigations ongoing 

For the period of February to April 2021, Amnesty International says that regional health facilities report registering 1,288 cases of gender-based violence in Tigray, though doctors note that many survivors didn't come forward.

In an interview with AFP,  Ethiopia's women's minister Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed said that it was up to law enforcement to find out how severe the problem was and who was at fault.

According to Filsan there's "no doubt" that rape has taken place in Tigray. In response, she has established a task force, which has since submitted a report to the Attorney General's office.

"I think they are doing their best... They have to go and really study thoroughly before they identify who committed the crimes."

However, she added, "I would prefer them moving at a faster pace so I can say justice has been served, and I hope we will see justice being served."

(With inputs from agencies)