Amnesty International has called on the African Union to pressure the Ethiopian government to ensure justice for victims of sexual violence in the two-year conflict with Tigrayan forces.
The rights group said that the Ethiopian government has not investigated or prosecuted anyone for the sexual violence that has occurred during the conflict, despite promises to do so.
In a statement, the rights group said that “the Ethiopian authorities must urgently break the silence on sexual violence” and ensure that survivors have access to medical and psychological support, as well as legal assistance.
“The Ethiopian government must ensure that survivors of sexual violence receive the support they need, and that those responsible for these heinous crimes are brought to justice”.
Since the start of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in November 2020, there have been numerous reports of sexual violence, yet the government has so far failed to investigate or hold anyone accountable, the rights group said.
When we speak about peace, the foundation of peace is justice and accountability. Without these two things, it is impossible to have a lasting peace. We must hold those responsible for crimes against women and girls accountable in order to achieve peace.
Nur says that we cannot start to talk about peace if justice and accountability are not being discussed. We must start with these things in order to have a productive conversation about peace. If we do not, then we will never achieve the peace we so desperately want.
Earlier this month, Amnesty launched a campaign highlighting human rights violations committed by Ethiopian government forces, militia groups and Tigray rebel groups. The campaign includes a new report detailing abuses committed between November 2020 and January 2021 in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Amnesty found that Ethiopian government forces and allied militia groups have carried out mass killings, forced displacements and other atrocities against civilians. rebel groups have also been responsible for human rights abuses, including abductions and unlawful killings.
The report provides harrowing accounts of the abuses committed by all sides in the conflict. It documents how, in some cases, civilians have been killed simply because they are from the wrong ethnic group. In other instances, people have been unlawfully detained.
The warring factions in Africa have agreed to end hostilities in mediation led by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, the rights group says that the process has yet to provide a roadmap for accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Rights groups have accused the warring parties of committing crimes against innocent people, though the groups deny these claims. Without a clear plan for accountability, it is difficult to say whether the process will be successful in ending the conflict.
Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, said: “The Ethiopian authorities must allow unrestricted access for human rights investigators to probe abuses against civilians in the two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia. All parties to the conflict have a duty to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access.”
Tekle added: “The Ethiopian government has a responsibility to ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses and violations are held to account. Impunity for such crimes only serves to further entrench cycles of violence.”
Amnesty International has repeatedly requested access to areas where conflict has taken place, in an effort to document human rights violations. However, these requests have gone unanswered.
According to Tekle, this lack of access hampers efforts to get a complete picture of the human rights violations that have occurred. Amnesty International is therefore calling for the authorities to allow independent human rights investigators access to the conflict areas.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the Tigray region capital of Mekelle on Wednesday to push for the implementation of a peace process signed earlier this month in South Africa.
The visit by Obasanjo, who is mediating the conflict on behalf of the African Union, comes as fighting continues between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), despite the signing of a peace agreement in early November.
The TPLF has been in control of the Tigray region since 1991, but the central government in Addis Ababa has been trying to dislodge the group since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.