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Watchdog Group Says Human Rights Remain Under Attack in Somalia


A new report criticizes the Somali Transitional Federal Government, its Ethiopian allies and insurgents for failing to protect human rights workers.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project issued a new report Tuesday, saying there's been a significant deterioration in conditions in Somalia. It reports the situation is particularly bad for journalists, nine of whom were killed in the past year.

Hassan Shire Sheikh is the chairperson of the group. From the Ugandan capital, Kampala, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that the situation in Somalia "can best be described as a persistent pattern of human rights violations, including…disappearance, unlawful killings and widespread and targeted rape…. And every day we see a number of people being uprooted and abandoned and scattered in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, which themselves are not secure and cannot access basic humanitarian assistance from outside the country."

While he blames the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), their Ethiopian allies and the insurgents for the deteriorating conditions, he places most of the responsibility on the TFG. In a statement released earlier, he says, "The TFG has largely failed to create the enabling environment necessary for human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate work. The TFG and their Ethiopian allies have often been the first to undermine those seeking to shed light on the continued human rights violations being committed against Somali citizens."

He tells VOA, "The transitional federal authorities have a constitutional…responsibility to give protection to the Somali population and also to create (an) atmosphere conducive for peace and tranquility in the country. (The) TFG and the Ethiopian allies have failed completely to provide that vital provision for the past four years."

Although it supported the TFG, Ethiopia did not actually send troops into Somalia until late 2006.

He says that Somalis had managed to build "vibrant "media outlets even though the country had been without a formal government for many years and that those media reported regularly on human rights violations. However, he says, "That has been shattered by the TFG, Ethiopian troops and the Islamic Courts Union."

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project makes a number of recommendations. They include ending the "culture of impunity" in Somalia and the creation of "impartial internationally supervised justice mechanisms;" the presence of peacekeeping troops throughout south-central Somalia; a greater UN human rights office presence; and a call for the TFG to do more to seek reconciliation with militias.

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