Amnesty International reports on TPLF attack on Nifas Mewcha in Amhara region

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The TPLF took control of Nifas Mewcha, in Amhara’s Gaint District, for nine days between 12 and 21 August 2021, as part of an ongoing offensive into parts of the Amhara and Afar regions. Regional government officials told Amnesty International that more than 70 women reported to authorities that they were raped in Nifas Mewcha during this period.

Sixteen women from the town of Nifas Mewcha in Ethiopia’s Amhara region told Amnesty International they were raped by fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) during the group’s attack on the town in mid-August 2021.

Survivors described being raped at gunpoint, robbed, and subjected to physical and verbal assaults by TPLF fighters, who also destroyed and looted medical facilities in the town. Fourteen of the 16 women Amnesty International interviewed said they were gang raped.

“The testimonies we heard from survivors describe despicable acts by TPLF fighters that amount to war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity. They defy morality or any iota of humanity,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“TPLF fighters must immediately stop all human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual and gender-based violence. The leadership must make clear that such abuses will not be tolerated and remove suspected perpetrators from their ranks.”

According to a local government desk officer for Women, Children and Youth Affairs, 71 women reported that they were raped by TPLF fighters during the period in question; The Federal Ministry of Justice puts the number at 73.

Dehumanizing verbal assaults

TPLF fighters also subjected the women to degrading ethnic slurs, such as ‘donkey Amhara’, and ‘greedy Amhara’. In some cases, the TPLF forces told women they were raping them in revenge for the rape of Tigrayan women by Federal government forces. Amnesty International previously documented widespread rape and sexual violence by government-allied troops and militias in Tigray

Stealing from rape victims

Amnesty International heard that, after raping the women, TPLF fighters then looted their homes. Survivors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth by working in low-paid and informal jobs, running small businesses or engaging in sex work, described fighters stealing food, jewelry, cash and mobile phones.

Health impact

Fifteen of the 16 rape survivors Amnesty International interviewed described suffering physical and mental health problems as a result of the attacks. They described a variety of symptoms including back pain, bloody urine, difficulty walking, anxiety and depression.

“The Ethiopian government must speed up efforts to fully support the survivors of sexual violence and the conflict’s other victims. As an urgent first step, it must facilitate immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of northern Ethiopia impacted by the conflict,” said Agnès Callamard.