Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned. The protracted conflict in the three northern regions has heightened the risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.
“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places. We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery,” they said.
Women and children in crosshairs
Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.
“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.
Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.
“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral, and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.
They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking or support their recovery in ways that fully take account of the extreme trauma being suffered.
“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.
🇪🇹#Ethiopia: Women & girls in the #Tigray, Afar and Amhar are increasingly vulnerable to abduction and #trafficking for sexual exploitation as they flee conflict – UN experts call for accountability and humanitarian/medical assistance for the victims.
👉 https://t.co/GD00n2kQWy pic.twitter.com/4ROPq1sU9M
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) October 3, 2022
They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support. The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country’s situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.