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US Rights Group Alleges Abuses by all Parties in Somali Conflict

A new report by Human Rights Watch released Monday calls for holding those responsible for abuses accountable

Al-Shabab fighters march with their guns during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu (File)
Al-Shabab fighters march with their guns during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu (File)

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  • Butty interview with Rona Peligal of Human Rights Watch

James Butty

A U.S.-based rights group says all parties to Somalia’s armed conflict have committed serious violations of the laws of war that contribute to the country’s humanitarian catastrophe.

In a report released Monday, Human Rights Watch calls on all sides in the Somali conflict to immediately end abuses against civilians.

Rona Peligal, deputy director for Africa at Human Rights, says the report also calls for holding those responsible for human rights abuses to account and ensuring access to aid.

“The report looks at abuses by al-Shabab, the Somali Transitional Federal Government, African Union peacekeeping forces and others.  It also looks at the current refugee crisis in Kenya of Somalis fleeing the Somali crisis,” she said.

Peligal says the 58-page report entitled, You Don’t Know Who to Blame: War Crimes in Somalia, documents numerous abuses during renewed fighting in the past year by parties to the Somali conflict.

She says the report was compiled based on interviews with recently arrived Somali refugees in Kenya, as well as from other sources.

Peligal says Human Rights Watch has evidence that all sides to the conflict have caused civilian casualties.

“There have been times where, for example, al-Shabab has fired mortars indiscriminately in densely populated areas and the TFG and AMISOM forces have responded with indiscriminate attacks. At the same time, we have found that the TFG has engaged in violations, including arbitrary arrests and detention, restriction of free speech and assembly,” Peligal said.

Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman says the claim that his government has failed to provide basic security for unarmed civilians is inaccurate.  He says the TFG deserves praise, not criticism, for forcing al-Shabab to withdraw from Mogadishu.

But, Peligal says it is unclear what the TFG means that al-Shabab has withdrawn from Mogadishu.

“Al-Shabab does control large swaths of territory and the TFG controls a small part of Mogadishu.  That’s part of the problem.  And, the other part of the problem has been that there has been no accountability for the abuses that have been committed,” Peligal said.

Human rights Watch urges all parties to the Somali conflict to take concrete steps to protect civilians.

The group reiterated its call for the establishment of a U.N. commission of inquiry to investigate violations of human rights and the laws of war by all sides.

“Most importantly, what we want to see now and this goes to al-Shabab is, first of all, an end to the attacks and, secondly, humanitarian access to those fleeing the conflict and, thirdly and a more longer term, our recommendation would be the creation of a U.N. commission of inquiry to look at the violation of human rights,” Peligal said.

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