ADDIS ABABA – Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces deliberately killed dozens of people, gang-raped dozens of women and girls – some as young as 14 – and looted private and public property in two areas of northern Ethiopia’s Amhara region, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.
The atrocities were perpetrated in and around Chenna and Kobo in late August and early September 2021, shortly after Tigrayan forces took control of the areas in July.
The attacks were often characterized by additional acts of violence and brutality, death threats, and the use of ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks.
In Kobo, Tigrayan forces were apparently lashing out at the civilian population in retaliation for increased resistance from local militias and armed residents.
“Evidence is mounting of a pattern of Tigrayan forces committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in areas under their control in the Amhara region from July 2021 onwards,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa at Amnesty International.
“This includes repeated incidents of widespread rape, summary killings and looting, including from hospitals,” Jackson said.
“The TPLF leadership must put an immediate end to the atrocities we have documented and remove from its forces anyone suspected of involvement in such crimes.”
Summary killings in Kobo
In Kobo, a town in the north-east of the Amhara region, Tigrayan fighters deliberately killed unarmed civilians, seemingly in revenge for losses among their ranks at the hands of Amhara militias and armed farmers, said Amnesty International, after interviewing 27 witnesses and survivors, including some who helped to collect and bury the bodies.
Ten Kobo residents told Amnesty International that in the afternoon of 9 September 2021, Tigrayan fighters summarily killed their relatives and neighbours outside their homes.
“First they shot my brother Taddese… He died on the spot. My other brother and my brother-in-law tried to move away and were both shot in the back and killed… they shot me in my left shoulder… I stayed down, pretending to be dead,” a survivor told Amnesty International.
Twelve other Kobo residents said that they found the bodies of local residents and labourers who had been killed execution-style – shot in the head, chest or back, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Amnesty said a satellite imagery analysis by its Crisis Evidence Lab shows evidence of new burial sites on the grounds of St. George’s Church and St. Michael’s Church, where residents said they had buried those killed on 9 September.
“Deliberate killings of civilians – or of captured, surrendered, or wounded fighters – constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity,” Amnesty added.
Sexual violence in Chenna
From July 2021 onwards, in and around Chenna, a village north of Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region, Tigrayan forces raped dozens of women and girls as young as 14, often in the victims’ own homes after having forced them to provide food and cook for them.
The sexual violence was accompanied by shocking levels of brutality, including beatings, death threats, and ethnic slurs, it said.
Fourteen of the 30 survivors interviewed by Amnesty International said that they were gang-raped by multiple Tigrayan fighters, and some were raped in front of their children. Seven of the survivors were girls under the age of 18.
Many of the survivors suffered severe and long-term physical and psychological damage, including 10 who remained hospitalized three months after they were raped. said Amnesty,
Doctors who provided medical care to rape survivors told Amnesty International that two rape survivors had to be treated for lacerations likely caused by having the bayonets of rifles inserted into their genitals.
Amnesty International has previously documented similar patterns of Tigrayan fighters raping Amhara women and girls in Nifas Mewcha, and said it has received credible reports of rape from other areas of the Amhara region.
“Such atrocities constitute war crimes and, potentially, crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said.
Apart from rape and killings, Amnesty reported looting of civilian and public properties including medical facilities by TPLF fighters in both Kobo and the Chenna area.