in a Permit Released on Friday, they expressed grave concern about the spread of sexual and gender-based violence attributed to Ethiopian, Eritrean, Tigrayan and Amhara forces, as well as allied militias.
These incidents constitute the most heinous violations of human rights and humanitarian law, according to experts.
“It appears that they were used as part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, humiliate and humiliate victims and their minority ethnic group, with the consent of both state and non-state parties to the conflict,” they said.
“These atrocities have devastating physical and psychological effects on the victims, which are exacerbated by the lack of access by survivors to help, support and redress.”
The United Nations continues to sound the alarm about the war in Tigray, which began just over a year ago. Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, noted that the conflict had marked ‘Excessive brutality’.
Rights experts said that although the exact prevalence of gender-based violence is unknown, the estimates are shocking.
From November 2020 through June of this year, around 2,204 survivors reported experiencing sexual violence in health facilities across the Tigray region.
Furthermore, one umbrella center reported that the majority of victims, or 90 percent, were underage girls, and it was estimated that visits had quadrupled since the conflict began.
However, experts said these numbers underestimate the true extent of gender-based violence. Cases are underreported due to fear, stigma, and inability to access health care or support centers.
“Despite the humanitarian situation, adequate access to facilities is vital to ensure appropriate care, for example for women and girls at risk of life-threatening infections, or to allow abortions for women and girls who become pregnant as a result of rape,” they stressed.
Vulnerable displaced women
Experts reported that the violence occurred in both rural and urban areas, in the homes of victims or in the places where they sought refuge.
In some cases, women and girls were raped because of their perceived or actual political affiliation, to be pressured into revealing the whereabouts of their male relatives, or as acts of revenge.
Internally displaced women and girls in Ethiopia, and Eritrean refugee women and girls living in the Tigray region, have been particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Eritrean women and girls, in particular, have been seriously affected by the conflict and are doubly victimized.”
“In addition to the severe consequences of sexual violence, most victims have also been affected in other ways by the conflict, including the killing of their close relatives.”
Respect and protection
The UN experts reminded the parties to the conflict of their duty to respect and protect human rights, and to prevent violations in any area under their control.
They also urged the two sides to implement the recommendations contained in a joint report issued by the Ethiopian Human Rights Office and its counterpart at the United Nations.
These recommendations include taking immediate measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of gender violence, providing redress for victims, facilitating immediate access to health care, and ensuring an independent and impartial investigation into all incidents of sexual violence.
The role of UN experts
The 14 experts who issued the statement receive their mandates from the United Nations Human Rights CouncilHeadquartered in Geneva.
They monitor specific country situations or thematic issues, such as violence against women, discrimination against women and girls, and the rights of internally displaced persons.
The experts are independent of the United Nations and serve in their personal capacity. As such, they are not UN employees, nor are they paid by the organization.