[JURIST] War crimes and other human rights violations are being committed in the ongoing Somali conflict [BBC backgrounder], according to a report [text, PDF] released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report, titled "So Much to Fear: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia," accuses all parties to the conflict of committing war crimes, including the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) [official website; CFR backgrounder], insurgent groups, and intervening Ethiopian forces. Alleged violations include indiscriminate attacks, killings, rape, use of civilians as human shields, and looting. Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW said [press release], "The combatants in Somalia have inflicted more harm on civilians than on each other." HRW called on the US and the European Union to change their policies and help end the violence:
Now is the time for fresh thinking and new political will on Somalia. Human Rights Watch calls upon all of the parties to the conflict in Somalia to end the patterns of war crimes and human rights abuses that have harmed countless Somalis and to ensure accountability for past abuses. This can only come to pass with much stronger and more principled engagement by key governments that have hitherto turned a blind eye to the extent and nature of conflict-related abuses in Somalia.
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.