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Amnesty International Pleads With Somali Insurgent Group Over Amputations

A leading human rights group is expressing concern about the possible amputation of four Somali men accused of stealing. A court set up by the insurgent group sentenced the four men in the northern part of the capital, Mogadishu.

The men were accused of stealing pistols and mobile phones from Mogadishu residents. But some human rights groups have condemned the court's ruling, describing it as cruel and inhumane.

Amnesty International researcher Benedicte Gouderiaux told VOA that al-Shabab should rescind its amputation verdict.

"Amnesty International is appealing to al-Shabab not to carry out these amputations, which constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments," Gouderiaux said.

She called on the insurgents to demonstrate that ordinary Somalis would be safe in areas under their control.

"Amnesty is calling on al-Shabab to show the Somali people that under their rule there won't be more injustice and suffering. But that they would be able to carry out fair trials according to due process," she said.

Gouderiaux described as unfair trial the sentencing of the alleged thieves.

"It appears that these four men did not even have a lawyer to represent them and the proceedings were heard in private. And we don't know that there was enough evidence to incriminate them," Gouderiaux said.

She said Amnesty International would not be happy if the insurgents carry out the amputations.

"Obviously if this happens, we would be very sad. We would condemn the amputations. We would appeal for proper medical care for these four men. And we would continue to call on al-Shabab not to carry out any further punishments of this sort," she said.

Gouderiaux said Amnesty International often calls on Somali insurgent groups fighting the government to respect international human rights standards.

Al-Shabab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration, vowing to overthrow the government through violence and implement a strict form of Sharia law.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1990 after former President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted.