Lucy Kassa at the Oslo Freedom Forum

By Sally Keeble

A prestigious global human rights conference was urged to play its part in winning justice for the victims of the brutal Tigray conflict. 

Human rights activists from around the world  listened in stunned silence as investigative journalist Lucy Kassa set out the record of ethnic profiling, disappearances and sexual violence deployed by the Ethiopian government in the Tigray conflict.

And the Oslo Freedom Forum hosted by the Human Rights Foundation heard from her about the Ethiopian Government’s efforts to block the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation into atrocities it found were committed by all parties to the conflict.

In a powerful speech on the final day of the conference, Lucy Kassa challenged the Ethiopian government over its efforts to silence its critics. And she set out how:

* weaponised sexual violence has been used against Tigrayan women, including a 27-year-old mother held captive for two weeks in a military camp and gang-raped by 50 Eritrean soldiers. She was one of thousands of women to be sexually enslaved. “For over a year now I have been talking to survivors almost every day,” she said. “The horrors I have witnessed have left me haunted and speechless.”

* Over nine million people have been left in humanitarian need as a result of the conflict which started as a dispute between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF.

* The conflict rapidly turned into an onslaught on the Tigrayan civilian population by Ethiopian forces backed by their Eritrean allies who committed war crimes that could amount to genocide as defined by international law.

* Ethnic Tigrayans in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and elsewhere were rounded up, had their businesses closed and were taken to detention camps where many of them were tortured, raped and killed.

* Hate speech was used, including by a prime ministerial adviser who called Tigrayans “cancer,” “weeds,” and “devils.”

* a deadly siege has kept the Tigray region without humanitarian aid, medicines or banking services for almost a year. 

* Journalists investigating atrocities have been subjected to hate campaigns. “But the truth will come to light,” she said.

“As an investigative journalist all I care about is finding evidence, verifying accounts. But as a human being I pray for the victims of this brutal war. And I expect justice, peace and support for the victims,” she said and urged the audience to “play your part.”