UN COUNTRY TEAM ATTESTS IT HAS NO VERIFIED INFORMATION ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN TIGRAY.
During a zoom meeting of March 26 2021 on the crisis in the Tigray region, members of the UN agencies acknowledged that the UN does not have verified information on reports regarding the incidence of sexual violence in the Tigray region.
Maureen Achieng, IOM, Chief of Mission to Ethiopia and Representative to the African Union, UNECA, and IGAD said that "What is important to note is that we don’t really have verified information, although clearly, something is happening but in terms of data and statistics, a lot of it remains anecdotal"
Unfortunately, there has been global attention to supposed escalating cases of sexual violence and rape being perpetrated against women and girls. This campaign has been hyped by the media and several international organizations, accusing Ethiopia of using rape as a weapon for war. According to Letty Chiwara, UN Women, Representative to Ethiopia, AU and ECA "we know sometimes is true and sometimes it’s not true". You take it with a pinch of salt but there is always some element of truth sometimes in the things that we read in the media, but we cannot take it all as is.
Speaking during the meeting, Charles Ndiema Kwemoi who is the OHCR, Human Rights Officer highlighted that the OHCHR had released a joint press statement with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission announcing the commencement of a joint investigation.
Meanwhile, Kwesi Sansculotte-Greenidge, Peace Advisor, notes with consternation that there are statements from the secretary-general, from his spokesperson, from the special advisor on the prevention of sexual violence during conflict, from the special advisor on the prevention of the right to responsibility to protect, as well as the prevention of genocide. All of which have said that there are credible reports of large scale sexual violence taking place in Tigray, but in the introduction to this, the kind of framing of it was that these hadn’t been verified. He thus questions, ‘’How do we go from credible to not being verified”?
The UN Women Representative to Ethiopia Letty Chiwara, notes further that unless they are verified evidence to be able to say ‘yes, there is real data or evidence of this happening to so many women and in this context’ and until such a time when OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have finished their investigations, “I would not feel comfortable as a UN entity or as a whole UN for us within Ethiopia to say we have evidence in our hands because we don’t”.