The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called for law enforcement operations in order to bring those involved in sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, to justice.
There are concerns that the Commission’s attempt to reveal human rights violations was being undermined by the failure of law enforcement bodies to identify and bring perpetrators to justice, The Reporter has learnt.
Explaining its mission, the EHRC said its core role is limited to revealing human rights violation, while it is not legally mandated to follow the case and bring criminals to justice.
Responding to the queries of The Reporter on whether or not individuals involved in grave violations against civilians, including killings, sexual and gender-based violence would be brought before the court of law, Mesganaw Mulugeta, Senior Advisor to the Commission, said that it is a mandate legally given to police officers and prosecutors.
“We are exerting pressure on law enforcement bodies to bring perpetrators to face justice,” he said.
In its latest assessment report last week, the Commission disclosed that 108 rape cases were reported to health authorities in Tigray.
On her part, Filsan Abdullahi, Minister of Women, Children, and Youth, said on her official Twitter account, “We have received the report back from our taskforce team on the ground in the Tigray region. They have unfortunately established rape has taken place conclusively and without a doubt.”
“Whatever the reason for your fight and struggle might be, one should never succumb to barbarism, and it only belittles and denigrates your cause. Fight if you must; but fight honorably, and leave out women, children, elderly, and the infirm from the fight,” said Filsan.
A source close to the EHRC who spoke to The Reporter on conditions of anonymity said that the incidents of rape took place in the conflict-hit Tigray region by civilians and the armed forces. Yet, the number of civilians suspected of sexual abuse is relatively smaller.
According to the UN OCHA, protection services overall remain drastically inadequate in Tigray, while health facilities continue to document sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases, including rape and there is likely a huge under-reporting of cases due to stigma attached to it.
EHRC, on the other hand, reported “Local structures such as police and health facilities where victims of sexual violence would normally turn to report such crimes are no longer in place, signaling the possibility that the actual number of cases might be higher and more widespread than reported cases.