Expressing his shock at the level of violence faced by civilians in Somalia, an independent United Nations human rights expert today rebuked the international community for failing the 1.5 million people uprooted from their homes in the Horn of Africa nation.
“Serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, in particular indiscriminate attacks and shelling of areas populated or frequented by civilians, are being perpetrated by all parties to the conflict with total impunity,” said Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who wrapped up a week-long visit to Somalia today.
These acts could be tantamount to war crimes, he said, adding that people are also fleeing their homes due to death threats, the risk of targeted killings and forced recruitment by militias.
During visits with IDPs, Mr. Kälin was told that violations, also including rapes, are especially rampant in areas controlled by those acting under the umbrella of anti-Government groups.
He called on all parties to the long-running conflict – including State actors, rebel groups and militias – to abide by their obligations under international law, while urging international troops to ensure that their operations do not affect civilians.
In spite of the risk of aid diversion, donors must not reduce their levels of humanitarian assistance, the expert stressed. “This would not only mean punishing the most vulnerable among already destitute communities, but also playing into the hands of radical elements who could easily exploit the situation.”
He also underscored the right of all Somalis to seek safety away from their own communities or seek asylum in another countries.
“They must not be sent back to areas they have fled and where their lives and safety would be at risk,” Mr. Kälin said.
During his visit to Somalia from 14 to 21 October, he held talks with representatives from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) as well as authorities from Somaliland and Puntland, as well as with UN agencies, humanitarian organizations, and civil society representatives.
Mr. Kälin also visited the Dadaab site in Kenya, designed for 90,000 people but now host to some 285,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.
For a quick overview of the situation, click here.