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UN Investigator Accuses International Community of Neglecting Somalia - 2002-04-19

A United Nations special investigator accuses the international community of neglecting Somalia and of failing to help that country become a politically viable state. The investigator has just submitted a report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights commission in which he details widespread violations in Somalia.

The U.N. investigator, Ghanim Alnajjar, said after years of neglect the international community suddenly has re-discovered Somalia. Unfortunately, he says this renewed attention has nothing to do with wanting to help lift Somalia out of its chaotic situation.

Instead, he said Somalia has become a place of interest because of its suspected role in international terrorism. The human rights expert offers no opinion as to Somaliaąs possible involvement in any terrorist network.

However, he says he is sure that Somalia is headed for another crash if the international community does not intervene to help rebuild the country. "During our last mission to Somalia, we were able to see first hand the damage to the society. During our meetings and field trips, we were able to understand the necessity of enhancing the human rights within this war torn society," he said. "It seems, that the international community needs to put its act together, or else, wait to see another catastrophic event coming yet again through Somalia."

Mr. Alnajjar said human rights must be a major part of any peace-building endeavor. He said the United Nations, in particular, has a major and moral duty to play in reconstructing Somalia and its shaky social structure. "Somalia needs more international, and above all, a common regional understanding, without which, fighting will continue, lack of public order will prevail, resorting to violence to settle minor differences will be the norm, and human rights violations will continue to be acceptable practice," he said.

In his report, the U.N. human rights expert says the fragmentation of Somalia has led to a major breakdown of law and order and to widespread human rights violations.

He said many people have been killed during inter-clan fighting throughout the country. But, the situation is especially severe in the capital, Mogadishu, which remains under the control of faction leaders and of the new Transitional National Government.

Mr. Alnajjar said pillage and looting are common practice. In many parts of Somalia, he says children under the age of 15 are recruited by militias, as soldiers. This is particularly evident in Baidoa. Mr. Alnajjar documents cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence and cases of discrimination and persecution against minorities. He notes most of the major political actors want past human rights abuses addressed.