Somalia violence may constitute war crimes: UN rights commissioner

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Thursday that human rights violations committed during recent Somalian conflicts may amount to war crimes [press release]. Pillay said that ongoing violence between Islamist rebels and the newly-formed government has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, despite a peace accord signed last year. Pillay's office reported that the rebel groups, Al-Shabab [Economist backgrounder] and Hisb-ul-Islam, have carried out extrajudicial executions, planted explosives in civilian areas and used civilians as shields. Both rebel and government fighters have allegedly used torture, indiscriminately fired mortars into civilian-populated areas and recruited child soldiers. Calling for the violence to stop, Pillay said perpetrators should be held responsible:

There needs to be a much greater effort to protect civilians. Displaced people and human rights defenders, aid workers and journalists are among those most exposed, and in some cases are being directly targeted. ... The gathering of evidence, by all who are in a position to do so, has to continue so that those committing these terrible crimes in Somalia will one day receive their due punishment before a court of law, and their victims will finally see justice being done.
Pillay said that human rights violators should be brought to justice, possibly for war crimes, once order is restored in the country. Since May, over 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu due to the conflicts.

Somalia has endured a lengthy civil war and several rounds of failed peace talks [BBC timeline] since the collapse of its last civil government in 1991. Last month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemned violence [JURIST report] inflicted upon civilians in Mogadishu as a violation of international human rights law. In April, the Somali parliament, meeting in Djibouti to avoid violence in Mogadishu, voted to adopt [JURIST report] Islamic Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] as part of a cease-fire agreement with the country's Hizb al-Islamiya and Al-Shabaab rebels. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] expressed his support [JURIST report] for the adoption of a moderate form of Sharia in March as part of peace talks with the rebels.

 

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