Tigrayan soldiers rape and kill civilians in Ethiopia’s civil war, Amnesty reports


Fighters affiliated with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) deliberately killed dozens of people, gang-raped dozens of women and girls, some as young as 14, Amnesty International said in a new report.

Most of the alleged atrocities took place in late August and September last year, the organisation said, when the TPLF was in control of parts of Amhara as it made gains against troops loyal to the Ethiopian federal government.

TPLF troops shot dead at least 24 people in the town of Kobo in one day last September, according to Amnesty International.

The organisation also accused Tigrayan forces of raping and sexually assaulting at least 30 women and girls as young as 14 in and around Chenna, a village north of the Amhara regional capital, Bahir Dar.

“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. This includes repeated incidents of widespread rape, summary killings and looting,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy director for east Africa.

“The TPLF leadership must put an immediate end to the atrocities we have documented and remove from its forces anyone suspected of involvement in such crimes.”

Amnesty said it had approached the TPLF with the allegations, but had received no reply. The TPLF has previously denied allegations of killings and rape by its troops.

In phone interviews with 27 people, described by Amnesty as witnesses and survivors of the killings in Kobo, the organisation said it had been told that on 9 September, TPLF fighters summarily shot unarmed civilians, “seemingly in revenge for losses among their ranks at the hands of Amhara militias and armed farmers”.

One person quoted in the report described seeing the bloody aftermath of the killings the following day. “The first dead bodies we saw were by the school fence,” he is quoted as saying.

“There were 20 bodies lying in their underwear and facing the fence and three more bodies in the school compound. Most were shot at the back of their heads and some in the back. Those who were shot at the back of their heads could not be recognised because their faces were partially blown off.”

The report, released on Wednesday, also contains allegations of 30 cases of rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Amhara women and girls. Fourteen of those interviewed by Amnesty in and around Chenna said they had been raped by multiple perpetrators, two in front of their children. Seven were under 18, the report noted, and 10 remained hospitalised three months later.

The cases were not isolated, said the report. “Rather, they seem to be part of a pattern of similar violations repeatedly perpetrated by large numbers of Tigrayan fighters in different locations,” it said. “Moreover, such abuses are likely underreported due to stigma within the survivors’ communities, challenges in accessing the locations, and communication blackouts that restrict and delay the flow of information.”

Raging since November 2020, the conflict in northern Ethiopia has been marked by possible widespread human rights abuses on all sides, according to a joint investigation by the UN and the country’s human rights commission, which released its findings late last year.

According to Amnesty, the majority of violations documented to date have been committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces and associated militias against Tigrayan civilians, mostly in the Tigray region.

Last week, lawyers acting for Tigrayan civilians in a complaint filed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights said that, while reports suggested abuses had been committed by different parties, Tigrayan civilians constituted “the overwhelming majority of victims”. (Source: The Guardian)