Anyone who has been following the war in Tigray will be aware of the rape and sexual abuse carried out by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, as well as Amhara militia. But to see it catalogued in one report – as Amnesty International has done – is truly shocking for even the most hardened observer.
See the full report here: Amnesty International Sexual Abuse report
At the heart of the report is a single chilling allegation. It is that what took place was not the work of one rogue army unit, or a brutal, out of control group of soldiers. It was – says Amnesty International – a policy.
“The patterns of sexual violence emerging from survivors’ accounts indicate that violations have been part of a strategy to terrorize, degrade, and humiliate both the victims and their ethnic group. The fact that such practices have been widespread and continuous indicates that this strategy has been tolerated at the highest level of government in both Ethiopia and Eritrea.“
If nothing else from the report remains, this accusation should not be forgotten. It should lead to criminal sanctions against Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and those around them. The international community should investigating the atrocities and lay the charges.
The abuses were summed up in testimony after testimony.
Consider just three.
- “There was an eight month pregnant lady with us, they raped her too. I have no words to tell you. They gathered like a hyena that saw something to eat. The pregnant woman gave birth after they raped her, and the baby was stillborn.”
- A doctor from Adigrat: “The girl from Edaga Hamus was taken from the public minibus on 6 February 2021. They let her to on 15 February and she arrived during the night and came to us the next day. We took two nails…tissue paper, gravel, and a piece of plastic packaging measuring 9 cm by 8 cm from her vagina.”
- “Most of them rapded me. I lost count of how many raped me. They raped me all day and throughout the night and kept me for three days and continued to rape me all the time. They said if you were male we would kill you, but girls can make Amhara babies.”
Many were raped in front of their families. If anyone protested, they were shot. Some were raped in front of their own children.
I have watched some film of what was taken from the vaginas of these women. I have seen a great deal of horrific images in my time as a journalist, but this was unbearable.
Amnesty International says that Prime Minister Abiy did eventually acknowledge the allegations of widespread sexual abuse and promised that the perpetrators would be punished. But – says the report – “the government failed to take concrete measures to stop and prevent such crimes – which continued unabated…Nine months on from the onset of the conflict, the Ethiopian authorities have not so far provided any details of the measures they claim to have taken to investigate incidents of conflict-related sexual violence and to bring those responsible to justice. At the time of writing, the only information made public about concrete steps taken is the announcement by the Attorney General’s office on 21 May 2021 that three Ethiopian soldiers were convicted of reape and 25 others indicted and are being tried for rape and other acts of sexual violence.”
These crimes cannot be allowed to go unpunished.