Ethiopia's military is guilty of war crimes, including using rape as a weapon of war, according to Amnesty International, which shares horrific accounts from victims in a new report. The group says "overwhelming evidence" shows rape has been rampant in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region since fighting between the federal government and regional government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, erupted in November. Amnesty interviewed 63 women and children from Tigray who said they'd been raped by members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, their allies within the Eritrean Defence Forces, and other pro-government fighters from the neighboring region of Amhara, over the last nine months, per the BBC and Guardian. Report author Donatella Rovera said "the level of sadistic and gratuitous brutality in addition to the rape was absolutely shocking," per the BBC.
Some women became sex slaves. Twelve said they were raped in front of family members, and at least two said they were gang-raped in front of their children. Others said soldiers inserted gravel, nails, or other metal into their vaginas, causing what Amnesty described as "lasting and possibly irreparable damage," per Al Jazeera. Nearly half of the women identified Eritrean soldiers "as the sole perpetrators of rape," according to Amnesty, which notes the extent of assaults suggests tolerance at the highest levels of government. The report claims the violence is "part of a strategy to terrorize, degrade, and humiliate both the victims and their ethnic group." Amnesty is demanding the UN investigate what could be crimes against humanity. The BBC notes Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed actually accused the TPLF of raping women this week while calling on civilians to join the army. (Read more Ethiopia stories.)