NAIROBI, KENYA— Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Sunday's attack on Mogadishu's main court complex constitutes a war crime, and underscores the need for Somalia's government to address security if it hopes to establish rule of law.
HRW has called on the government to make sure protection of its institutions is part of the reform agenda.
HRW condemned the coordinated suicide bomb attack on a court complex that killed at least 29 people, and the bombing of an aid convoy.
In a statement, the group said deliberately targeting civilians is a grave violation of the rules of war.
Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attacks, some of the deadliest acts of violence since the group was driven from the capital under pressure from regional military forces more than 18 months ago.
While Mogadishu has made progress rebuilding since then, Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said the city remains fundamentally unsafe.
“There is sometimes been, I think, a rhetoric that Mogadishu is safe, it’s safe for the return of refugees, it’s safe for the return of people who have been displaced into other parts of Somalia," Lefkow said. "And I think this attack unfortunately highlights the fact that insecurity in Mogadishu remains a very real threat.”
Lawyers and judges working at the courthouse were among those killed in the attack.
Lefkow finds the attack was particularly vicious for targeting judicial institutions and undermining the government’s attempts to re-establish law and order in the city.
“If Mogadishu is to see real change or progress in the rule of law, then protecting these kinds of places is clearly going to have to be part of the agenda for the new government,” Lefkow said.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called the attack a sign of desperation from the al-Qaida-linked militants, who have been driven from the main cities of Somalia, but still control rural areas of the south.