Over 10,000 individuals have been identified as survivors of sexual violence as a result of the conflict in Ethiopia and the fighting in Tigray, according to reports from UN experts.
U.N.-supported experts on human rights report that war crimes persist in Ethiopia, despite the signing of a peace agreement almost a year ago to resolve a destructive conflict that has also impacted the Tigray region. The brutality has resulted in the suffering of over 10,000 individuals who have experienced rape and other forms of sexual violence, with women and girls being the primary victims.
The experts’ report, published on Monday, comes against the backdrop of an uncertain future for the team of investigators who wrote it: The U.N. Human Rights Council is set to decide early next month whether to extend the team’s mandate in the face of efforts by the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to end it.
In November 2020, a wave of violence broke out primarily in the northern Tigray region, although other areas were also affected. The report highlights acts of brutality committed by all parties involved in the conflict, such as widespread killings, sexual assault, famine, and the targeting of educational and healthcare institutions.
Despite the peace agreement signed in November, Mohamed Chande Othman, the chairman of the international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia, stated that the situation is still “extremely serious”.
“He stated that although the agreement’s signing may have largely stopped the violence, it has not successfully addressed the ongoing conflict in the northern region of the country, particularly in Tigray, nor has it achieved overall peace.”
Othman stated that there are now violent confrontations occurring on a large scale throughout the country, with concerning reports of civilians being mistreated in the Amhara region and ongoing acts of brutality in Tigray.
According to the report, soldiers from Eritrea and members of Ethiopia’s Amhara militia are still engaging in severe violations in Tigray, which include the persistent occurrence of rape and sexual violence against women and girls.
Commissioner Radhika Coomaraswamy stated that the existence of Eritrean soldiers in Ethiopia indicates not only a persistent disregard for consequences, but also ongoing endorsement and acceptance of these transgressions by the national government.
She stated that complete families have been murdered, with their relatives being compelled to witness horrifying acts committed against their loved ones. Additionally, entire communities have been either displaced or forcibly removed from their residences.
According to the commission, more than 10,000 individuals who experienced sexual violence sought medical assistance between the beginning of the conflict and July of this year, based on combined estimates from seven health centers in Tigray.
However, there has been a lack of accountability and trust in the justice system of Ethiopia.
The commission is aware of a total of 13 military court cases that have been resolved and 16 cases that are still awaiting resolution, all of which pertain to sexual violence incidents that occurred during the conflict.
The statistics in the report provide a comprehensive overview of a conflict that was widely acknowledged to have numerous instances of sexual violence, even after the peace agreement was signed.
Last month, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region. Experts have reported instances of “mass arbitrary detention of Amhara civilians,” as well as a drone strike conducted by government forces.
Since April, Amhara, the second most populous region in Ethiopia, has experienced unrest due to the disarming of its security forces by federal authorities after the neighboring Tigray war concluded.
Othman emphasized the importance of ongoing monitoring due to the significant impact this developing situation has on Ethiopia’s stability and the broader region. This is particularly crucial for the millions of women, men, and children residing in Ethiopia.
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