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Women’s Refugee Commission Alarmed by Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in Northern Ethiopia Conflict

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today released a joint report documenting brutal human rights abuses against women and girls, including the widespread use of sexual violence by parties to the conflict intended to degrade and dehumanize their victims. The joint investigation found reasonable grounds to believe the abuses committed amount to violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, and potentially war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The report details incidents of rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, killings, torture, and violence against refugees, including destruction of refugee shelters. The report’s findings also shed light on how blockades have obstructed humanitarian relief from reaching those in need, particularly women and girls, which has had dire implications on access to lifesaving supplies such as medical support and food. For those surviving sexual and gender-based violence, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and psychosocial care in particular has heightened their trauma.

In reaction to the report, Gayatri Patel, vice president, external relations, Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), issued the following statement:

“The atrocities detailed by this report demonstrate how conflict not only impacts women and girls disproportionately, but often specifically targets them. We commend the investigative team which, despite encountering limitations such as lack of access to all of the Tigray region and harassment and intimidation against investigators, still highlighted the on-the-ground needs of the people affected by this year-long crisis. WRC echoes the report’s call on all parties to the conflict to immediately end violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, cease any measures that exacerbate the already acute humanitarian crisis, and provide comprehensive support to women, girls, and others who have survived or are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

“We welcome the report’s specific attention to women and girls, as well as persons with disabilities and older persons, who are disproportionately affected by the conflict and often overlooked in human rights reports. The cases of sexual and gender-based violence are disturbing and highlight the need to provide comprehensive services, including sexual and reproductive health services, psychosocial healthcare, and legal services. We also note the calls from survivors for restoration of their livelihoods and accountability for the perpetrators.

“With human rights abuses ongoing, including destruction of health facilities, we are deeply alarmed by the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Tigray. The Tigrayan conflict has already forced more than two million people to flee and leaves a growing number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Yet, little action has been taken to address the situation, including by the UN Security Council. We hope the joint report, in addition to ongoing reporting from human rights groups, will give new impetus to act urgently, including for all parties to provide rapid and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. The bravery and courage of survivors and victims who have been interviewed for this report must not be in vain. We cannot leave them alone in their suffering.”