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News: Rights commission reveals disturbing sexual violence in Amhara conflict, more than 200 cases of rape exposed

According to the EHRC, government forces have been involved in the killings of numerous civilians within major cities of the Amhara region, including the regional capital, Bahir Dar (Photo: Bahir Dar City Culture & Tourism Bureau/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a deeply troubling report today, highlighting the widespread occurrence of sexual violence linked to the conflict in the Amhara region. The report reveals that since July 2021, over 200 cases of rape have been registered at different health facilities, with victims including displaced women and health workers.

Alongside sexual violence, the report sheds light on civilian deaths and numerous human rights violations throughout the ongoing conflict in Amhara. The EHRC calls for an immediate halt to these deplorable violations by all parties involved.

The EHRC states that the conflict, which began in July 2023, has led to civilian casualties caused by heavy artillery and aerial bombardments across all zones of the region. Heavy clashes and indiscriminate attacks utilizing heavy artillery, mortars, and air power, including drone strikes, have occurred periodically across Amhara, endangering the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire. Control over different cities and towns within Amhara has continuously shifted between government forces and the non-state militia known as Fano.

The report among others highlighted the killing of a year and seven months old child in Meteh Bila town on 16 October, and the killing of at least 8 civilians in Debre Markos city on 19 October, 2023 in a drome strike.

According to the report, the intensity of the violence has resulted in mass displacement, with communities fleeing for their lives. In the Menjar district alone, approximately 3,000 residents are seeking shelter in makeshift accommodations such as schools and fields, while others have been scattered across towns like Metehara and Awash town in neighboring Oromia region, after government forces forcefully expelled them in September 2023. The report emphasizes that humanitarian assistance for these displaced populations, including food, water, and medicine, remains insufficient.

The report also raises concerns about extrajudicial killings, particularly by government security forces. While the EHRC had previously expressed these concerns in a statement released on 15 September, 2023, recent findings indicate that such actions persist. The victims include residents who were executed based on suspicions of having connections to the non-state armed group Fano, whether through membership or simply questioning the direction of gunfire. Government forces were found to have been responsible for killing multiple civilians in cities such as Bahir Dar, Ammanuel, Gondar, and others, while non-state armed factions also carried out attacks resulting in the killing and abduction of civil servants.

The latest report also confirms the occurrence of multiple extrajudicial killings of civilians by government security forces in various locations between September and October 2023. In Bahir Dar City, on 10-11October, several civilians, including a trio of siblings, were reported as being killed.

Similarly, on 10 October, in Adet Town, North Gondar Zone, 12 high school students were among the civilians who lost their lives. Furthermore, in Amanuel Town, East Gojjam Zone, at least eight civilians were reportedly killed on 14 October, 2023.

One particularly distressing incident took place on 29 September 2023, near Gendeweyn town, Goncha Siso District, East Gojjam Zone. Here, security forces intercepted an injured young man who was being transported by his mother and sister to a medical facility. Shockingly, the forces allegedly carried out the execution of the young man, his mother, sister, and the driver after evacuating the vehicle. According to the report, the executioners justified their actions by claiming that the injured man was a member of rebel groups.

The EHRC report further outlines the damage inflicted on civilian property and infrastructure, looting, disruptions in services and transportation, and the conversion of schools for military purposes. These developments have caused shortages, price hikes, and the suspension of production and salaries in some areas.

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Daniel Bekele, the Chief Commissioner of the EHRC, emphasized the importance of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, stating, “Civilians, their property, and public infrastructure should never be targeted. It is crucial to ensure accountability, especially for crimes like rape and extrajudicial killings. The displaced populations must receive timely humanitarian assistance, and finding a permanent solution for their return is essential.” AS

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