Amnesty International today released a report revealing the dire human rights and humanitarian crisis facing the people of Somalia.
The report contains first-hand testimony from scores of traumatised survivors of the conflict, exposing the violations and abuses they have suffered at the hands of a complex mix of perpetrators which include Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops, Ethiopian troops, and various armed groups.
Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme Director Michelle Kagari said:
‘The people of Somalia are being killed, raped, tortured; looting is widespread and entire neighbourhoods are being destroyed.’
Witnesses described to Amnesty International an increasing incidence of Ethiopian troops killing people by what is locally termed ’slaughtering’ or ‘killing like goats’ - referring to killing by slitting the throat.
Those killed are often left lying in pools of blood in the streets until armed fighters, including snipers, move out of the area and relatives can collect their bodies.
In one case, a 15-year-old girl found her father with his throat cut when she returned home from school after Ethiopian security forces had swept through her neighbourhood.
Other cases in the report include:
A 56-year-old woman from Mogadishu called Haboon said Ethiopian troops had raped her neighbour’s 17-year-old daughter. When the young woman’s 13 and 14 year old brothers tried to protect their sister, the soldiers beat them and gouged out their eyes with a bayonet. The mother fled.
It is not known what happened to the boys. This girl is in a coma as a result of the injuries she sustained during the attack.
Qorran, another 56-year-old woman from Mogadishu, described how after her family went to bed, she went out to collect charcoal. While she was out, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at her home, completely destroying it. She said, ‘When I came back, I couldn’t find my house.’ Her husband and sons were all killed in the attack. She told Amnesty International, ‘If grief is going to kill anyone it’s going to kill me.’
Guled, aged 32, who said that he saw his neighbours ’slaughtered’. Guled said he saw many men whose throats were slit and whose bodies were left in the street. Some had been castrated. He also saw women being raped. In one incident, more than 20 Ethiopian soldiers raped his newly-married neighbour when her husband was not home.
Michelle Kagari continued:
‘The testimony we received strongly suggests that war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Somalia - and no one is being held accountable.
‘The human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia is growing worse by the day. This report represents the voices of ordinary Somalis, and their plea to the international community to take action to end the attacks against them, including those committed by internationally-supported TFG and Ethiopian forces.’
Security in many parts of Mogadishu is non-existent and the entire city’s population bears the scars of having witnessed or experienced severe violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Michelle Kagari said:
‘There is no safety for civilians, wherever they run. Those fleeing violence in Mogadishu are attacked on the road and those lucky enough to reach a camp or settlement face further violence and dire conditions.’
Amnesty International’s report insists that the TFG, as the recognised government of Somalia, bears the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of the Somali people. However, the Ethiopian military, which is taking a leading role in backing the TFG, also bears responsibility.
‘Attacks on civilians by all parties must stop immediately. Also, the international community must bear its own responsibility for not putting consistent pressure on the TFG or the Ethiopian government to stop their armed forces from committing egregious human rights violations.’
Amnesty International urged that the capacity of the UN Political Office for Somalia be strengthened, and that the African Union Mission to Somalia (or AMISOM) - and any succeeding UN peacekeeping mission - be mandated to protect civilians and include a strong human rights component with the capacity to investigate human rights violations.
The organisation also called for the UN arms embargo on Somalia to be strengthened, amongst other recommendations.