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Members of Congress Condemn Sexual Violence in the Northern Ethiopia Conflict

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of reports unveiling possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia, including Tigray, 46 members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Congresswomen Speier (CA-14), Frankel (FL-21), Bass (CA-37), and Jacobs (CA-53) yesterday introduced a resolution condemning the use of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence by parties to the conflict and calling for specific actions to be taken to support survivors and address the humanitarian crisis.

The House resolution urges President Biden to ensure accountability for human rights abuses, especially against women and girls, in the Tigray region, and calls on all parties to cease obstruction of humanitarian aid, including food, fuel, and medicines, which is negatively impacting their well-being and heightening their risks of sexual exploitation. The resolution also calls on the United States to leverage existing programs to meet the humanitarian needs on the ground. To date, more than 2 million people have been impacted by the conflict.

“We are bearing witness to horrific abuses against women and girls as young as six years old in this region and, alarmingly, the cruelty is the point,” said Gayatri Patel, vice president of external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). “As is all too frequent in conflict, parties are deliberately using sexual violence to intimidate and humiliate their enemy. These atrocities, including the brutal gang rape of women and children, not only breach international law, they also leave survivors with severe trauma and fear for generations to come. WRC welcomes congressional action in condemning this humanitarian and human rights nightmare, and we urge President Biden and all parties to the conflict, including the Ethiopian government, which has been deliberately blocking aid, to immediately take up the recommendations laid out in the resolution.”

Several reports by human rights bodies highlighted rampant incidents of rape and other sexual and gender-based violence, torture, violence against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians. One report in particular detailed the devastating impact of sexual violence, including physical and mental trauma, unwanted pregnancies, and deliberate infection with sexually transmitted diseases, and noted the government of Ethiopia’s deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid, which has impeded survivors’ access to critical support such as sexual and reproductive health services and psychosocial care. These reports also concluded that all parties to the ongoing conflict committed human rights violations that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The House resolution also calls on all parties to ensure that the report “paves the way for a robust, independent, transparent, and impartial mechanism” to ensure that any evidence that points to crimes – including crimes against humanity – are preserved for future accountability.

“It is paramount that the Biden administration act without delay to utilize all diplomatic pressure and ensure aid reaches and meets the full range of needs for survivors — comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including access to safe abortion, psychosocial services, and clinical management of rape — as part of its humanitarian response,” said Patel. “These services are lifesaving and must be prioritized. The trauma is deep, and we as an international community must both respond to the needs of those who survived and do our utmost to ensure accountability to prevent others from facing the cruelty of sexual violence. Women’s and girls’ bodies should not be politicized, nor should the support that can help them recover and heal.”


Read WRC’s statement in November on human right abuses in the northern Ethiopia conflict.