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6 May 2008

Killing of civilians now routine in Somalia

(Nairobi) Amnesty International today released a groundbreaking report revealing the dire human rights and humanitarian crisis facing the people of Somalia.

The report contains first-hand testimony from scores of traumatized survivors of the conflict, exposing the violations and abuses they have suffered at the hands of a complex mix of perpetrators. These perpetrators include Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops on the one hand, and armed groups on the other.

“The people of Somalia are being killed, raped, tortured; looting is widespread and entire neighbourhoods are being destroyed,” said Michelle Kagari, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International, speaking from Nairobi.

Witnesses described to Amnesty International an increasing incidence of Ethiopian troops killing by what is locally termed “slaughtering” or “killing like goats” -- referring to killing by slitting the throat. The victims of these killings are often left lying in pools of blood in the streets until armed fighters, including snipers, move out of the area and relatives can collect their bodies.

In one case, a 15-year-old girl found her father with his throat cut upon returning home from school, after Ethiopian security forces swept through her neighbourhood.

Other cases in the report include:

• Haboon, a 56-year-old woman from Mogadishu, who said her neighbour’s 17-year-old daughter was raped by Ethiopian troops. When her 13 and 14-year-old sons tried to defend their sister, the soldiers beat them and took their eyes out with a bayonet. The mother fled. It is not known what happened to the boys. This girl is in a coma as a result of the injuries she sustained during the attack.


• Qorran, another 56-year-old woman from Mogadishu, described how after her family went to bed, she went out to collect charcoal. While she was out, a rocket propelled grenade was fired at her home, completely destroying it. She said, “When I came back, I couldn’t find my house.” Her husband and sons were all killed in the attack. She told Amnesty International, “If grief is going to kill anyone it’s going to kill me.”

• Guled, aged 32, who said that he saw his neighbours “slaughtered”. He said he saw many men whose throats were slit and whose bodies were left in the street. Some had their testicles cut off. He also saw women being raped. In one incident, his newly-wed neighbour whose husband was not home was raped by over twenty Ethiopian soldiers.

“The testimony we received strongly suggests that war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Somalia – and no one is being held accountable,” said Kagari.
 
“The human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia is growing worse by the day. This report represents the voices of ordinary Somalis, and their plea to the international community to take action to end the attacks against them, including those committed by internationally-supported TFG and Ethiopian forces.”

Security in many parts of Mogadishu is non-existent, and the entire population of Mogadishu bears the scars of having witnessed or experienced egregious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

“There is no safety for civilians, wherever they run. Those fleeing violence in Mogadishu are attacked on the road and those lucky enough to reach a camp or settlement face further violence and dire conditions.”

The Transitional Federal Government, as the recognized government of Somalia, bears the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of the Somali people. However, the Ethiopian military, which is taking a leading role in backing the TFG, also bears responsibility.

“Attacks on civilians by all parties must stop immediately. Also, the international community must bear its own responsibility for not putting consistent pressure on the TFG or the Ethiopian government to stop their armed forces from committing egregious human rights violations.”

Amnesty International urged that the capacity of the UN Political Office for Somalia be strengthened, and that AMISOM – and any succeeding UN peacekeeping mission – be mandated to protect civilians and include a strong human rights component with the capacity to investigate human rights violations.

The organization also called for the UN arms embargo on Somalia to be strengthened, amongst other recommendations.

Notes to editors:
One million Somalis are internally displaced, hundreds of thousands are refugees, and some 6,000 civilians were killed in attacks last year. Journalists fear every day for their lives and are fleeing the country in greater numbers.

The African Union “peace support” force in Somalia (AMISOM) has neither the mandate nor the capacity to protect civilians.

There have been 13 failed peace conferences to resolve one of the world’s longest crises of state collapse.

 

The report can be downloaded here: "Routinely Targeted: Attacks on Civilians in Somalia"

AI Index: PRE01/136/2008
Region Africa
Country Kenya
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