In wake of persistent reports of human rights violations, especially an escalating number of instances of gender-based violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the United Nations has “stressed the urgent need for an objective, independent assessment of the facts on the ground.”

“Deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties continue to be shared with us, as well as reports of continued fighting in central Tigray in particular,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. “Credible information also continues to emerge about serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Tigray in November last year”, she added.

According to the UN, “The conflict between the Ethiopian Government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, when the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base. Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but TPLF resistance has continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses.”

Reports of violence have come from Adigrat, Mekelle, Shire and Wukro from where, between December and January, more than 136 cases of rape have also been reported in hospitals. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also been able to corroborate reports of “indiscriminate shelling in Mekelle, Humera and Adigrat towns in Tigray region, and reports of grave human rights violations and abuses in Axum, and in Dengelat in central Tigray by Eritrean armed forces, including mass killings.” The OHCHR named the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Eritrean armed forces, and Amhara Regional Forces and affiliated militia as culprits. 

“With multiple actors in the conflict, blanket denials and finger-pointing, there is a clear need for an objective, independent assessment of these reports – victims and survivors of these violations must not be denied their rights to the truth and to justice”, said the High Commissioner, urging the Government to grant OHCHR and other independent monitors access to the region, to establish the facts and contribute to accountability, “regardless of the affiliation of perpetrators”.  

*Feature image by A Savin via Wikimedia Commons.