The National - News

UN reports mass rapes in Tigray


Women and girls in northern Ethiopia’s turbulent Tigray region face sexual attacks and “cruelty beyond comprehens­ion”, a UN official said.

Pramila Patten, the UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, told diplomats that violence against women in war zones including Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen had worsened during the coronaviru­s pandemic.

She addressed the UN Security Council on Wednesday on her latest report, which described dozens of armed groups using mass rape and gender violence as a “cruel tactic of war”.

“In the remote, mountainou­s regions of north and central Tigray, women and girls are being subjected to sexual violence with a level of cruelty beyond comprehens­ion,” Ms Patten said.

“Healthcare workers are documentin­g new cases of rape and gang rape daily, despite their fear of reprisals.”

She described more than 100 allegation­s of rape in Tigray since Ethiopian forces pushed out the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the capital Mekelle in November. Other estimates are much higher.

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, urged the council to do more to help women and girls in Tigray and for “independen­t credible investigat­ions” into attacks.

“We as a council must address reports of women being forced by military elements to have sex for basic commoditie­s and reports of sexual violence against women and girls in refugee camps, among other horrific informatio­n,” she said.

The UN keeps a list of armed groups that commit such atrocities. Among the worst abusers are rebel, opposition and terrorist groups linked to ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The list includes government forces in Syria, Congo and South Sudan, armed groups in Sudan, and army and police in Somalia. The military that staged a coup in Myanmar in February are also accused.

In Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the pandemic led to an increase in child marriage and “survival sex”, the report said.

Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and doctor who has treated hundreds of rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urged council members to do more than just debate the subject.

“The progress in internatio­nal law should not hide the fact that the scourge of sexual violence, which is a real pandemic, continues to prevail in all situations of conflict,” Dr Mukwege said.

“Responses remain underfunde­d and the climate of impunity for sexual-related crimes remains more the rule than the exception.”

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