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Routine killings of civilians in Somalia

Transitional Federal Government soldiers on their truck in Bur Haqaba, Somalia

Transitional Federal Government soldiers on their truck in Bur Haqaba, Somalia

© APGraphicsBank

6 May 2008

The dire human rights and humanitarian crisis facing the people of Somalia has been revealed in a groundbreaking new Amnesty International report.

First-hand testimony from scores of traumatized survivors of the conflict is included in the report, which exposes the violations and abuses they have suffered at the hands of a complex mix of perpetrators.

These include Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops on the one hand, as well as armed groups on the other. For many civilians, there is nowhere to go to escape the violence.

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

Witnesses told Amnesty International of an increasing incidence of what it locally termed as “slaughtering” or “killing like goats” by Ethiopian troops, 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.

“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 Michelle 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 the city 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 has 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 has also called for the UN arms embargo on Somalia to be strengthened.

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