24/03/2005

Ethiopian army branded ‘murderers and rapists’

The Ethiopian military has committed widespread murder, rape and torture against the Anuak population since December 2003, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.

In ‘Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region’, HRW said that the abuses detailed in the report could amount to crimes against humanity.

It says some 400 Anuak people were killed after an alleged ambush by Anuak gunmen on a government vehicle.

Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Africa Division, Peter Takirambudde, said: “The Ethiopian government must address its responsibility for the horrific crimes that the army has committed against Anuak civilians in Gambella. While serious abuses have continued, the government has focused only on prosecuting a handful of soldiers involved in the December 2003 massacre.”

In the massacre, the military launched a series of attacks on Anuak villages that destroyed over 1000 homes and left several dozen villagers dead.

Several Anuak villagers who have reported abuses to the regional authorities told HRW that officials said there was nothing they could do to control the military, and urged them to keep quiet for their own safety. Others complained to the military authorities about rapes committed by soldiers, only to be advised that the best way to prevent such abuses was to tell women not to walk the roads alone.

HRW has called for an independent investigation into the human rights violations in Gambella from December 2003 to the present day.

(CD/SP)

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