08
May
08

Call for Inquiry Into US Role in Somalia

Call for Inquiry Into US Role in Somalia
By Steve Bloomfield
The Independent UK, Wednesday 07 May 2008

Nairobi – Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.

The human rights group yesterday listed abuses carried out by Ethiopian and Somali government forces, and some committed by al-Shabaab, an anti-government militia which the US designated a terrorist group.

According to the report, based on the testimonies of refugees who have fled Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in recent weeks, Ethiopian troops have killed civilians by slitting their throats. Ethiopian and Somali forces were also accused of gang-raping women and attacking children.

A refugee, named Haboon, accuses Ethiopian troops of raping a neighbour’s 17-year-old daughter. When the girl’s brothers – aged 13 and 14 – tried to help her, Ethiopian soldiers gouged out their eyes with a bayonet. The Ethiopian government last night issued a statement strongly rejecting the Amnesty allegations and criticising the organisation’s “uncritical use of sources.”

Amnesty called for an international commission of inquiry into allegations of war crimes and said the role of other countries that have given military and financial support to perpetrators should also be investigated.

US troops trained Ethiopian forces involved in military operations in Somalia, and the US government supplied military equipment to the Ethiopian military.

“There are major countries that have significant influence,” said Amnesty’s Dave Copeman. “The US, EU and European countries need to exert that influence to stop these attacks.”

After attacks by Ethiopian and Somali forces on civilian areas in Mogadishu last year, European lawyers considered whether funding for Ethiopia and Somalia made the EU complicit. The results of their deliberations were never made public.

The Amnesty report detailed a pattern of attacks. Refugees who fled the violence said al-Shabaab would launch an attack from a residential area. Ethiopian troops would respond with a security sweep, often going from door-to-door attacking civilians. Those who did not flee faced further reprisals.

Increased military activity has turned Mogadishu into a ghost town. About 700,000 people have fled – out of a population of up to 1.5 million. The UN estimates that 2.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – more than one quarter of the population.

Peace talks between the Somali government and the main opposition alliance are scheduled to begin later this month.

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