Amnesty International has found evidence of atrocities committed by TPLF fighters during an offensive in August.
Tigrayan rebels have raped, robbed and beaten several women during an attack on a village in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, Amnesty International has found, amid growing evidence of brutal violence committed during the year-long conflict.
According to an investigation released by the human rights watchdog on Wednesday, 14 of the 16 women of the town of Nefas Meewcha said they were gang-raped during an offensive by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in August.
“The testimonies we have heard from survivors describe contemptuous acts by TPLF fighters amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity,” said Amnesty Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
“They defy morality or any jot of humanity.”
Fifteen of the 16 rape survivors interviewed by Amnesty International described how they suffered physical and mental health problems as a result of the attacks, including back pain, bloody urine, difficulty walking, anxiety and depression.
Gebeyanesh, a 30-year-old food seller in Nefas Meewcha, told Amnesty International she had been repeatedly assaulted.
“Three of them raped me while my children were crying. My oldest son is 10 and the others are nine years old, they cried then [the TPLF fighters] raped me, ”she said.
“They beat me [and] kicked me. “They sharpened their guns as if they were going to shoot me.”
The victims reported being insulted and referred to the use of degrading ethnic insults.
Meskerem, 30, who belongs to the Amhara Semitic-speaking ethnic group, told Amnesty International that three TPLF fighters raped her and hit her with the butt of their rifles.
“They insulted me and called me ‘donkey Amhara, you are strong, you can carry much more than that’. “I was unconscious for more than an hour,” she said.
The number of women who have been sexually assaulted is likely to be much higher. According to a local government’s desk officer for Women, Children and Youth Affairs, 71 women reported being raped by TPLF fighters during the period in question, while the Federal Ministry of Justice set the number at 73.
The findings follow a UN investigation in alleged atrocities in Ethiopia that found that all sides had committed serious abuses that could amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
An earlier report by Amnesty International released in August also found that fighting troops in support of the federal government had committed widespread rape against women and girls.
Diplomatic efforts on the part of an envoy of the African Union and an American one continued this week amid growing calls for an immediate ceasefire and talks.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, who reports from Addis Ababa, said peace efforts were “still a work in progress”, but they aimed to create at least the conditions to provide humanitarian aid to more than 400,000 people in the Tigray region suffering from famine.
Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s envoy for the Horn of Africa, said he would have a plan for negotiations by the end of the week. His first priority will be to open a humanitarian corridor in Tigray – home to six million people.