News: UN rep for sexual violence in conflict “greatly concerned” by horrific reports of sexual violence in Tigray

News: UN rep for sexual violence in conflict “greatly concerned” by horrific reports of sexual violence in Tigray

Women and children constitute the prime victims of the ongoing armed conflict in Tigray. Refugees from Tigray arriving in Sudan. Picture: UNFPA

Addis Abeba, January 22/2020 – In a statement released on January 21, Pramila Patten, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict said she is “greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle.”

Ms. Patten’s statement also said there are “disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”

Full statement:

I am greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.

While noting the volatile security situation in the Tigray region, the hampered physical access in many parts of Tigray, and the dire situation of civilians especially refugees, it remains critical that humanitarian actors and independent human rights monitors be granted immediate, unconditional and sustained access to the entirety of the Tigray region, including IDP and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.

Immediate medical and psychosocial assistance must be accompanied by protection measures, to ensure that those who have been forced from their homes due to violence are not placed at further risk of sexual violence within the camps. This includes the more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan. The United Nations estimates that of these refugees, more than 25 percent are women and girls of reproductive age.

Constrained humanitarian access and limited resources for service
providers have reduced the availability of essential health care and
assistance for survivors of sexual violence, including sexual and
reproductive health care. Access to lifesaving assistance, such as
dignity kits, post-rape kits, treatment to prevent HIV and STI
transmission and psychosocial support is also critical. Accordingly,
enhanced funding and support is urgently required to scale-up the
provision and coverage of essential services.

I call on all parties involved in the hostilities in the Tigray
region to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual
violence, in line with their respective obligations under international
humanitarian and human rights law. While taking note of the monitoring
and investigation missions recently conducted by the Ethiopian Human
Rights Commission (EHRC) in Western Tigray and the Amhara region, I call
on the Government of Ethiopia to further exercise its due diligence
obligations to protect all civilians from sexual and other violence,
regardless of their ethnic origin and those displaced by conflict, and
to promptly allow for an independent inquiry into all allegations of
sexual and other forms of violence, to establish the facts and hold
perpetrators accountable, provide redress to victims, and prevent
further grave violations. My Office and the United Nations system stand
ready to support national authorities to put in place rigorous measures
to prevent and respond to possible violations.

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