[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday criticized [press release] Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (FTG) [CFR backgrounder] and African Union forces (AMISOM) [advocacy website] for failing to stop the unlawful recruitment of children as soldiers, forced marriage and rape. HRW released a report [text, PDF], “No Place for Children: Child Recruitment, Forced Marriage, and Attacks on Schools in Somalia,” based mainly on interviews with Somali refugees as well as TFG, UN and African Union [advocacy website] officials. HRW found that al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder; NCTC backgrounder] has increased its effort to forcibly recruit children since mid-2010. Even when these children succeed in escaping, TFG allegedly detains them for being supporters of al-Shabaab instead of rehabilitating them. While boys are facing death in the battlefield as “human shields,” girls are facing cruel treatment of another sort: “Abducted girls are assigned cooking, cleaning, and other domestic duties in the camps. Al-Shabaab uses girls and young women not only for support for combat operations, but also for rape and forced marriage to fighters.” Due to al-Shabaab’s increased attacks on schools and abduction of children, most of the schools in Somalia are currently closed and those still open provide only below minimum education:
Children have nowhere to hide. Al-Shabaab has abducted them wherever they congregate: schools, playgrounds, football fields, and homes. Schools in particular have been attractive targets—14 of the 21 child escapees from al-Shabaab whom Human Rights Watch interviewed were taken from schools or on their way to school.
HRW urged parties to comply with its recommendations including stopping all child recruitment, transferring captured children to rehabilitation centers, protecting schools from attacks and ensuring that officials responsible for abuses be held to account.
Somalia [DOS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Friday reached an agreement [JURIST report] at the Garowe II Constitutional Conference [Garowe Online report] to organize diplomats and establish a federal constitution. However, Somalia has been under heavy criticism for human rights violations. In August HRW accused [JURIST report] parties in the Somalia conflict to be involved in abuses of citizens and urged them to cease all of such activities immediately. In July, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] release [JURIST report] a report which alleged that children continued to be victims of the conflict. In the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials] however, noted [JURIST report] progress in Somalia for human rights. In 2009, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said [JURIST report] that human rights violations committed during Somalian conflicts may amount to war crimes [press release].