A new report from Human
Rights Watch asks the United States, the European Union, and other major powers
to redefine what it calls their "flawed" approach to the crisis in Somalia and
urges them to support efforts to bring greater accountability to the
offenders. The 104-page report released
Monday argues that all sides are responsible for mounting dangers over the past
two years and that the combatants are inflicting more damage on civilians than
on each other. Human Rights Watch
Africa director Georgette Gagnon says that outsiders, including the soon-to-take-office Obama administration,
need to re-evaluate fundamental views about the Horn of Africa conflict in
order to stop fueling the war crimes and rights abuses that Human Rights Watch
says are being committed by all sides in the conflict.
needs to be first, some sort of record of accountability and justice to show all
those civilians who have been displaced and killed over the past many years
that there's a new way of looking at the situation and that the various
international actors will not continue to tolerate abuses by the TFG
(Transitional Federal Government), by the Ethiopian troops, and by the
insurgents. We also are calling on the
Obama administration to appoint a new, high-level, very experienced envoy to
the Horn (of Africa region) to assist with the ongoing talks between the
parties," she said.
Rights Watch is also requesting that the United Nations assign a special
Commission of Inquiry to hold offenders accountable for abhorrent acts. Africa
director Gagnon says it is needed to shift the focus back to civilians' rights
and away from the war on terror. In
defining the conflict in Somalia for too long as a battlefield in the global
war against terror, she argues, the Bush administration has been limited to a
policy of uncritical support for both the transitional government and invading
Ethiopian forces, and a resulting absence of accountability over the past two
years continues to fuel some of the worst abuses against civilians in the
need for protection is greater than it has ever been. They are constantly bombarded in their neighborhoods. They've been assaulted, murdered, and raped,
even by those so-called forces that were supposed to be there to provide some
protection. They've been used as human
shields, targeted as collaborators by one side or another. And of course, no one is being held
accountable," she noted.
recently announced its intention to withdraw the troops which entered Somalia
in December of 2006 in order to bolster its own security concerns and help the
TFG gain stronger governing leverage in the country. However, Monday's Human Rights Watch report says that contrary to
stabilizing conditions, Addis Ababa's intervention has fueled new attacks and
bombings that have encouraged the conflict to spread into neighboring regions
and across borders.
on Monday quickly issued a response to the Human Rights report, calling its
methods flawed, based on hearsay, and rejecting accusations of crimes it says
are being committed by other forces and parties in the conflict. The report blames all sides for atrocities
committed in Somalia, and cites previously semi-autonomous regions of
Somaliland and Puntland, as well as refugee camps across the Kenyan border and
piracy in the Gulf of Aden as new sources of instability. Georgette Gagnon says
that peace talks in Djibouti are one avenue where international powers can
promote greater understanding and accountability.
"One area they could look at is, who
are the players at the talks, for example.
Are all the key parties being represented? And being much more vigorous
in setting timelines for the talks, ensuring that those at the table are aware
and can make decisions for those fighting on the ground. Also, the new (Obama) administration should
look more seriously at the question of civilian protection, who should be
providing it, how it should be provided.
It's urgent. There needs to be
much more international engagement on that," says Gagnon.