Somali children continue to be victims of war crimes [press release], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said Thursday. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "In the Line of Fire: Somalia's Children Under Attack," AI provides evidence indicating that armed conflict in areas of Somalia has led to deteriorating human rights conditions, particularly for children. Armed military and civilian forces, like the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder], regularly recruit Somalian children to serve as soldiers, often denying access to education and placing the children in danger of death and injury. The report contains vignettes illustrating the impact of fighting outbreaks on Somali youth. AI Deputy Director for Africa Michelle Kagari describes some of the human rights abuses Somalian children experience:
Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children's crisis. As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabab because you are caught listening to music or 'wearing the wrong clothes', be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don't have access to adequate medical care.AI expressed concern that human rights abuses in Somalia are under-reported because dangerous conditions prevent accurate, comprehensive reporting. AI also enumerated recommendations for protecting children, including calls to monitor military recruitment more effectively, initiate investigations and cooperate with international human rights organizations.
Somalia has come under fire for its poor human rights record. The 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials], released in April by the US Department of State (DOS) [official website], outlined rights set-backs [JURIST report] under the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, but noted progress in Somalia [material], particularly in the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said that human rights violations committed during recent Somalian conflicts, including recruitment of child soldiers, may amount to war crimes [JURIST report]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] in 2008 that war crimes and other human rights violations are being committed in the ongoing Somali conflict [BBC backgrounder]. 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. In January 2007, the transitional government began imposing martial law [JURIST report] over areas under the government's control. In August 2007, HRW reported that war crimes were rampant [JURIST report] in Somalia.