Scores of sexual assaults in Ethiopia’s Tigray since peace agreement, study finds
Scores of sexual assaults in Ethiopia’s Tigray since peace agreement, study finds

Justice is commonly considered an essential part of a person’s healing from rape and sexual violence perpetrated against them. But for many women and girls, like those who have been assaulted in Ethiopia’s northern region, that healing may be denied.Rights campaigners on Thursday denounced a decision by the African Union (AU)‘s rights commission to halt its investigation into wartime abuses committed in Tigray. 

They allege the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights “may have succumbed to undue political pressure from the Ethiopian government.”The UN Human Rights Council ordered a separate probe into abuses by all sides in the civil conflict in 2021, but Ethiopia rejected international efforts to investigate the reported atrocities, warning that inquiries could undermine the peace process.

A new study released Thursday by Physicians for Human Rights and the Organization for Justice and Accountability in the Horn of Africa analyzed 304 randomly selected medical records from health centers in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The researchers found at least 128 sexual assaults have occurred since the peace agreement was signed last November between the  Ethiopian federal government and TPLF representatives.  

The peace accord put an end to a two-year civil war  that killed what the AP reports to be hundreds of thousands of civilians. The peace process has not halted sexual assaults on females in the region by alleged former combatants, according to the study.

The peace deal, brokered by the AU and other parties, did not include neighboring Eritrea, whose troops fought alongside the Ethiopian federal forces during the war. Researchers believe the number of rape cases sampled in the report is only a fraction of the assaults those that have actually occurred. 

The report says almost all the attackers were identified by victims as members of a military group, often from Eritrea. In the records reviewed by the researchers, 76 percent of victims reported that multiple men had sexually assaulted them, often three or more, the report says. In 94 percent of the cases reviewed no condom was used. 

Some women and girls were abducted for repeated assaults, the report states.

“The world has accountability mechanisms, but almost everything is in the hands of diplomats and politicians, which is a recipe for failure,” said Martin Witteveen, an international criminal law expert who worked with the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission until early 2022. 

On Thursday, Ethiopia was announced as an incoming member of the BRICS economic block.

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