GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2021 / APO Group / –
UN human rights experts * today expressed grave concern about the widespread sexual and gender-based violence committed against women and girls in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions by parties to the conflict.
They reiterated the recommendations of the joint investigation report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the authorities to guarantee that the victims are offered full support and reparation, and that the perpetrators appear before the Justice.
“These acts of violence constitute some of the most egregious violations of human rights and humanitarian law,” the experts said. “They appear to have been used as part of a deliberate strategy to terrorize, degrade and humiliate the victims and the minority ethnic group to which they belong with the acquiescence of the State and non-State actors parties to the conflict.
“These brutal acts have devastating physical and psychological impacts on the victims, which are compounded by the lack of access to assistance, support and reparation for the survivors.”
The reported acts of violence are attributed to members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, the Eritrean Defense Force, the Tigrayan Forces, the Tigrayan militias, the Amhara Regional Special Force and the Fano militia, the experts added.
While the exact prevalence of gender-based violence is unknown, the estimates are alarming. From February to April 2021, health facilities registered more than 1,000 cases and, in the month of July alone, they reported 2,204 cases in the Tigray region. One of the one-stop-shop centers reported that the victims in more than 90 percent of the cases were underage girls and estimated that visits to the center had quadrupled since the conflict broke out a year ago.
“It is important to bear in mind that these figures are an underestimation of the true scope of gender violence that is being committed,” said the experts. “This type of violence is highly underreported due to fear and stigma and, in this particular context, inaccessibility to health or support centers.
“Despite the humanitarian situation, adequate access to facilities is vital to ensure adequate care, for example, for women and girls at risk of developing life-threatening infections, or to allow abortion for women and girls who become pregnant as result of a violation. “
The violence was committed in both rural and urban areas, in the homes of the victims or in the places where they were sheltered. In some cases, women and girls were raped because of their real or apparent political affiliation, to pressure them to reveal the whereabouts of their male relatives or as acts of revenge.
“Internally displaced women and girls in Ethiopia and Eritrean refugee women and girls living in the Tigray region have been particularly exposed to sexual violence. Eritrean women and girls in particular have been severely affected by the conflict and doubly victimized, ”the experts said.
“In addition to the serious consequences of sexual violence, most victims have also been harmed in other ways by the conflict, such as the death of close family members.
“We want to remind state and non-state actors parties to the conflict of their duty to respect and protect human rights, and to prevent violations in any territory under their jurisdiction or effective control, whether by state or non-state actors.
In particular, we reiterate the recommendations made by the joint investigative report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to end all forms of sexual violence and give clear, public and unequivocal instructions to all armed forces and groups. Prohibit sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence and punish these acts on the basis of direct responsibility and command.
“We also reiterate the need for Ethiopia and Eritrea to implement the report’s recommendations: take immediate action to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of gender-based violence; provide reparation to victims; facilitate immediate access to adequate medical care, including the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, and psychosocial support; ensure proper documentation and investigation of all incidents of sexual violence by independent and impartial bodies, and hold perpetrators to account ”.
The experts have raised their concerns with the Governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
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