Amnesty has reported widespread rapes in Tigray 'with impunity

Dozens of women have described shocking sexual assaults by Ethiopian soldiers and allied forces in the country's Tigray conflict, says an Amnesty International report published Wednesday, and its researcher calls it striking how the perpetrators appeared to act without fear of punishment from their commanders.

Amnesty has reported widespread rapes in Tigray 'with impunity

Donatella Rovera stated that all of these forces, from the beginning, were everywhere and felt it was OK to commit these crimes for a long time because they felt they could do it with impunity and nothing holding them back."

She wouldn't speculate as to whether any leader signaled rape. The report states that the rape was meant to humiliate both women and Tigrayan tribes. These are the most horrific atrocities Rovera has seen in her many years of investigating atrocities all over the globe, she said.

Amnesty reported that more than 1,200 cases were recorded by Tigray health centers between February and April. The true toll of the nine-month conflict is unknown as many of the 6 million-plus health facilities in the area were looted and destroyed.

Amnesty stated that these numbers likely represent a "small fraction of the truth". The Amnesty interviewed 63 women and health workers.

Twelve women claimed that they were held for several days or weeks and raped repeatedly multiple times by men, often by several men. Twelve other women claimed they were raped before their family. Five women claimed they were pregnant when they were attacked. Two women claimed that they were assaulted with nails, gravel, and shrapnel in their vaginas.

Amnesty heard one woman tell Amnesty that three men attacked her home and she didn't realize she was a person. She was just four months pregnant at that time.

The AP separately has spoken with women who described being gang-raped by combatants allied with the Ethiopian military, notably soldiers from neighboring Eritrea but also fighters with the neighboring Amhara region.

Amnesty has not been notified of any allegations against Tigray force members, who took control of Tigray in June and then crossed into Amhara and Afar to try to break the blockade and press Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his resignation.

While Ethiopian and allied forces retreated from much of Tigray in June, some remain in western Tigray, and Ethiopia's government on Tuesday essentially abandoned its unilateral cease-fire as Abiy called all able citizens to fight.

Amnesty calls for accountability for sexual violence in the conflict. It says that rape, and sexual slavery, are war crimes. It said that many Tigray women are now suffering from the mental and physical effects of the assaults, including HIV infections and continual bleeding.

Responding to the Amnesty Report, Ethiopia's government stated that it has previously admitted that some members of its armed forces had engaged in conduct contrary to the rules of engagement and directions they were given.

Ethiopia also accused the human right group of "sensationalized attack and smear campaign" against the government. Meanwhile, Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea's information minister, tweeted that Amnesty had a "hostile agenda". This is because Ethiopia borders the Tigray region in the north.

The Ethiopian government stated earlier this year that three soldiers were convicted and that 25 others were indicted for rape, and other sexual violence. Amnesty denied that any information about the trials or other means of bringing perpetrators to justice has been made public.

A spokesperson for the attorney general's Office did not respond Wednesday to a request for information on investigations.

Ethiopia's government has refused to allow human rights investigators into Tigray, but a joint investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is underway into alleged atrocities.

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