Women from the Amhara town of Nifas Mewcha told Amnesty that fighters associated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Ethiopia’s central government in a year-long war in the country’s north, committed widespread rape and sexual violence in mid-August.
CNN has not interviewed the women and cannot independently verify the claims.
“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.
According to Amnesty’s interviews, one woman, a 30-year-old food seller in the town, claimed TPLF fighters raped her in front of her children, slapped and kicked her before taking food items from her house.
“Three of them raped me while my children were crying,” she told Amnesty International. They slapped me [and] kicked me,” she said. “They were cocking their guns as if they are going to shoot me.”
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda on Wednesday denied the allegations and called for an independent investigation. Getachew told CNN by phone that while the TPLF took the allegations “very seriously,” he believed they were “basically groundless, because our forces do not indulge in the very practices of our enemy forces.”
Besides the assaults, Amnesty reported that the women were denigrated using ethnic slurs such as ‘donkey Amhara’ and ‘greedy Amhara’ and were unable to seek medical assistance after their assaults because the non-governmental organization that provides care has left the region due to security concerns.
In a statement last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray, Amhara and Afar. The UN also said no aid convoys with supplies had been able to enter Tigray since mid-October.
In August, a separate Amnesty International report detailed widespread rape and sexual violence carried out by troops and militias aligned with the Ethiopian government, including the Amhara Regional Police Special Force and Fano, an Amhara militia. To conduct the report, Amnesty interviewed medical professionals and 63 survivors of sexual violence between March and June 2021.
CNN has not previously reported accusations of sexual violence by TPLF fighters during the current conflict.