Tigrayan forces (Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front – TPLF) have killed, raped and looted in attacks on civilians in Ethiopia’s Amhara towns, Amnesty International has said.
Fighters affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) deliberately killed dozens of people, gang-raped dozens of women and girls – some as young as 14 – and looted private and public property in two areas of the Amhara region in northern Ethiopia, Amnesty International said. in a new report released today.
The atrocities were carried out in and around Chenna and Kobo in late August and early September 2021, shortly after Tigrayan forces took control of the areas in July. The attacks were often characterized by additional acts of violence and brutality, death threats, and the use of ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks. In Kobo, Tigrayan forces were apparently attacking the civilian population in retaliation for increased resistance from local militias and armed residents.
“The Tigrayan forces have shown complete disregard for the basic rules of international humanitarian law that all warring parties must respect. Evidence is mounting of a pattern of Tigrayan forces committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in areas under their control in the Amhara region as of July 2021. This includes repeated incidents of widespread rape, summary executions and looting, including in hospitals,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International.
“The TPLF leadership must immediately halt the atrocities we have documented and remove from its forces anyone suspected of involvement in such crimes.”
Summary Murders in Kobo
In Kobo, a town in the northeast of the Amhara region, Tigrayan fighters deliberately killed unarmed civilians, apparently in revenge for losses suffered in their ranks by Amhara militias and armed farmers. Amnesty International interviewed 27 witnesses and survivors, some of whom helped recover and bury the bodies.
Ten residents of Kobo told Amnesty International that on the afternoon of September 9, 2021, Tigrayan fighters summarily killed their relatives and neighbors outside their homes.
“They shot my brother Taddese first… He died instantly. My other brother and my brother-in-law tried to get away and were both shot in the back and killed…they shot me in the left shoulder…I lay there pretending to be dead,” one survivor told Amnesty International.
Twelve other Kobo residents said they found the bodies of local residents and workers who had been killed in execution style – shot in the head, chest or back, some with their hands tied behind the back.
“The first bodies we saw were near the school fence. There were 20 bodies lying in their underwear and facing the fence and three more bodies inside the school compound. Most were shot in the back of the head and some in the back. Those who were shot in the back of the head could not be recognized because their faces were partially gouged out,” a resident said.
Analysis of satellite images by Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab shows evidence of new burial sites on the grounds of St. George’s Church and St. Michael’s Church, where locals said they buried those killed on September 9.
The deliberate killings of civilians – or of captured, surrendered or injured combatants – constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
Sexual violence in Chenna
From July 2021, in and around Chenna, a village north of Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region, Tigrayan forces raped dozens of women and girls as young as 14, often to the victims’ homes after forcing them to provide food and cook for them.
The sexual violence was accompanied by shocking levels of brutality, including beatings, death threats and ethnic slurs. Fourteen of 30 survivors interviewed by Amnesty International said they were gang-raped by multiple Tigrayan fighters, and some were raped in front of their children. Seven of the survivors were girls under the age of 18.
Lucy, a 14-year-old seventh grader, and her mother were both raped by Tigrayan fighters in their home in Did-Bahr. She told Amnesty International: “I was at home with my mother and grandmother when two young men with guns came to our house in the morning around 11am. One wore military clothes and the other civilian clothes. They spoke a mixture of Tigrinya and Amharic. They said ‘Our families have been raped and now it’s our turn to rape you.’ One of them raped me in the yard and the other raped my mother inside the house. My mother is very sick now, she is very depressed and desperate. We don’t talk about what happened; it’s impossible.”
Salam, a 29-year-old woman, described how four Tigrayan fighters locked her older parents in a separate room and then gang-raped her for 15 hours.
Many survivors suffered severe and lasting physical and psychological harm, including 10 who remained hospitalized for three months after being raped. Doctors who provided medical treatment to rape victims told Amnesty International that two rape victims had to be treated for lacerations likely caused by the insertion of rifle bayonets into their genitals.
Amnesty International has previously documented similar cases of Tigrayan fighters raping Amhara women and girls in Nifas Mewcha, and received credible reports of rapes in other areas of the Amhara region. Such atrocities constitute war crimes and, potentially, crimes against humanity.
Looting of civilian property
In Kobo and the Chenna region, residents told Amnesty International that Tigrayan fighters stole property from their homes and shops and looted and ransacked public property, including medical clinics and schools.
Looting and damage to medical facilities has prevented rape victims and other residents in need of medical attention from getting treatment on the spot, forcing them to wait until they can reach hospitals in Debark, Gondar and Bahir Dar weeks later. For rape victims, it was far too late to receive essential post-rape care, some of which must be administered within 72 hours.
“These atrocities once again underscore the need for swift action by the international community to investigate abuses by all parties, hold those responsible to account and ensure that survivors can exercise their rights. rights,” said Sarah Jackson.
“For too long, the international community has failed victims and survivors of crimes under international law in Ethiopia. The United Nations and the African Union should deploy competent investigative teams to the region. The international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in December, must also be allowed to begin its work and granted access to the country. as soon as possible.
Amnesty International’s full report is available here.
The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 and spread to other parts of northern Ethiopia from July 2021. Amnesty International has documented a series of violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including massacres , extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, sexual and otherwise. violence-based violence and arbitrary detentions by Ethiopian government forces and allied militias and by Eritrean forces acting alongside them.
NOTE- To download exclusive satellite imagery and photographic evidence corroborating testimonies of burial sites and looting in Kobo, you can visit the Amnesty website.