DIFFUSION D’INFORMATION DU 10 DÉCEMBRE 2008
Les crimes de guerre et génocide en Somalie
La Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH) reprend les parties concernant le Peuple Somali et le Peuple Oromos dans le World Report 2008 de Human Rights Watch, ainsi que d’autres communications sur la Somalie
C’est face aux drames qui se sont transformés en génocide, qu’il est important d’attirer l’attention de la Communauté Internationale.
Il est temps au Chef de l’Etat de Djibouti, qui ne parle que de la Somalie de dénoncer au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme dont il assure la Vice Présidence, de dénoncer sans ambiguïté le génocide et les crimes de guerre perpétrés par les Troupes Ethiopiennes et leurs alliés sur les populations civiles de la Somalie et de l’Ogaden (Somalie Occidentale) et en Territoire Oromos.
NOEL ABDI Jean-Paul
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Human Rights Watch conducts regular, systematic investigations of human rights abuses in some seventy countries around the world. Our reputation for timely, reliable disclosures has made us an essential source of information for those concerned with human rights. We address the human rights practices of governments of all political stripes, of all geopolitical alignments, and of all ethnic and religious persuasions.
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Despots Masquerading as Democrats
By Kenneth Roth
Rarely has democracy been so acclaimed yet so breached, so promoted yet so disrespected, so important yet so disappointing. Today, democracy has become the sine qua non of legitimacy. Few governments want to be seen as undemocratic.
Yet the credentials of the claimants have not kept pace with democracy’s growing popularity. These days, even overt dictators aspire to the status conferred by the democracy label. Determined not to let mere facts stand in the way, these rulers have mastered the art of democratic rhetoric that bears little relationship to their practice of governing.
Why else would as ruthless a leader as Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov choose to stage elections? Why bother? Karimov heads a government that has imprisoned some 7,000 people for political and religious reasons, routinely tortures detainees, and as recently as 2005 massacred hundreds of protesters in Andijan. He is hardly a democrat, and he faces no real opponents in December 2007 elections because no one dares mount a serious challenge to his rule. Even a constitutional prohibition against a third seven-year presidential term has not stood in his way.
Yet this brutal president finds utility in holding electoral charades to legitimize his reign. So do, among others, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Even China has gotten into the game. In an October 2007 speech to the Communist Party Congress, President Hu Jintao used the word “democracy” more than 60 times in calling for more of it within the party. Yet that has not stopped him from barring independent political parties, blocking legal efforts to uphold basic rights, and shutting down countless civil society organizations, media outlets, and websites. And there are no national elections. So what did he have in mind? The party allowed 221 candidates to contest 204 seats for its Central Committee.
The Ethiopian government’s human rights record remains poor, both within the country and in neighboring Somalia, where since early 2007 thousands of Ethiopian troops have been fighting an insurgency alongside the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
Government forces committed serious human rights violations, including rape, torture, and village burnings, during a campaign against Ethiopian rebels in eastern Somali Region (Region 5). Abuses also took place in other parts of the country, notably in Oromia State where local officials carried out mass arrests, extrajudicial killings and economic sanctions.
In March and April 2007 in Mogadishu, Somalia, the Ethiopian military used heavy artillery and rockets indiscriminately, in violation of international humanitarian law, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing up to 400,000 people, as they fought an escalating insurgency.
In Addis Ababa, the government pardoned and released dozens of opposition leaders and journalists detained since the post-election crackdown in 2005.
However, the press remains hobbled and local human rights organizations operate with great difficulty.
Abuses in Somali and Oromia States
In June, the Ethiopian military launched a major offensive in Somali region, the eastern third of the country inhabited by ethnic Somalis. The offensive was a response to increasing attacks by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a longstanding armed opposition movement demanding self determination for the region. In April the ONLF attacked an oil exploration site killing nine Chinese oil workers, 50 armed guards, and 28 nearby villagers; the group was also allegedly responsible for two bombings in May that indiscriminately killed 17 people, mostly civilians, and wounded dozens in Dhagabur and Jigjiga, the state capital.
In the five zones affected by the conflict, the Ethiopian military retaliated by razing entire villages, carrying out public executions, raping and harassing women and girls, arbitrarily arresting, torturing and sometimes killing suspects in military custody; and forcing thousands to flee their homes. They also imposed a commercial blockade on the affected region and confiscated livestock—the main asset in this largely pastoralist region—exacerbating food shortages.
In July, the government expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross and restricted access to the affected region by other international humanitarian agencies.
Restrictions on humanitarian agencies were slightly eased in September and October, when the government permitted the UN to conduct an assessment and open regional offices in the affected area.
In Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous state, government authorities have used the fact of a long-standing insurgency by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to imprison, harass, and physically abuse critics, including school children. Victims are informally accused of supporting the OLF, an outlawed rebel group, but supporters of the Oromo National Congress (ONC) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), registered opposition political parties, suffer similar treatment. In early January, more than thirty students were arrested and at least one, a tenth-grader, died as a result of police beatings in Dembi Dollo, western Oromia. Other students were severely injured and hospitalized.
Also in January, local police and militia members in Ghimbi shot two high school students dead, one as he and others were walking peacefully along, the other as he covered the body of the first with his own in order to protect him from further harm. In March security officials allegedly executed 19 men and a 14-year-old girl near Mieso in northeastern Oromia. Starting in August, federal and state security forces arrested well over 200 people in western Oromia, including three members of the executive committee of the Nekemte chapter of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and OFDM members, on suspicion of links to the OLF. Some, including the EHRCO officials, were released under court order after the police failed to provide evidence against them but most were still detained as of early November. At least 25 were being held in defiance of court orders to release them.
Farmers in Oromia who fail to support the governing political party are denied fertilizer and other agricultural aids over which the government exercises monopoly control.
Abuses Relating to the Conflict in Somalia
Thousands of Ethiopian troops were deployed in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia in late 2006 as part of the military campaign to oust the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and install the Transitional Federal Government. In March and April 2007, the Ethiopian military indiscriminately bombarded large residential areas of Mogadishu with mortar shells, artillery, and “Katyusha” rockets, killing hundreds of people and causing up to 400,000 people to flee the city. Ethiopian forces made no apparent effort to distinguish between civilian and insurgent targets, and they shelled and occupied several key hospitals located in the frontline areas. (See Somalia chapter)
In collaboration with TFG forces, Ethiopian troops detained and sometimes beat hundreds of men in mass arrests in Mogadishu in June and July. Dozens of suspected ICU supporters who fled Mogadishu in December 2006 were detained by Ethiopian forces in Somalia or by Kenyan officials at the border, and rendered to Ethiopia in January and February, where they were held in incommunicado detention for months of interrogations, by US security agents, among others. At least 40 of the detainees were released in April and May—including more than a dozen women and children under the age of fifteen—but scores of others have disappeared.
Suppression of Free Expression and Attacks on Civil Society
An unknown number of people remain imprisoned without trial after electionrelated violence following events in June and November 2005, although in July 2007 the government finally released the leadership of the leading opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and six newspaper publishers.
In proceedings that became popularly known as “the treason trial,” the government had accused the CUD leadership, journalists and others of using unlawful means to change the “constitutional order,” obstruct the exercise of constitutional powers, promote armed rebellion, and impair “the defensive power of the state,” as well as treason and genocide. In April 2007, the treason and genocide charges were dismissed, but some defendants were convicted of the other charges. The court also ordered three newspapers to be closed. Shortly after sentencing, most of the defendants were released and all charges against them were dropped after they submitted letters accepting some responsibility for the 2005 unrest. However, two civil society representatives, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, who acted as mediators between the EPRDF and the CUD after the 2005 elections, refused to sign letters of regret and insisted on judicial exoneration.
Despite flimsy government evidence against them, they remained incarcerated as of early December 2007, two years after their arrest, because of repeated court recesses.
Following the 2005 elections, the government has sharply reversed a liberalizing trend and subjected independent newspapers and their editors, publishers, and reporters to renewed harassment, intimidation, and criminal charges. Three journalists acquitted during the treason trial fled the country after their release from jail, citing multiple death threats from government security agents. The government and its allies own all electronic media. It blocks access to internet sites critical of its policies. In October, the government began jamming Deutsche Welle and Voice of America Amharic and Oromomifa language broadcasts, the principal source of news for the rural population.
The government has long tried unsuccessfully to outlaw the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA), the largest independent membership organization in the country.
ETA’s president, released from six years in prison in 2002, was tried in absentia
in the treason trial; the chair of ETA’s Addis Ababa branch was acquitted. Four ETA members were arrested in December 26, 2006, severely beaten, and otherwise tortured to coerce confessions that they were members of an armed opposition group, the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front. Released in March 2007, they were rearrested in late May and early June.
Key International Actors
Ethiopia remains deadlocked over a boundary dispute with Eritrea dating from the 1998-2000 war. The war in Somalia is another source of tension between the two countries. International criticism of the Ethiopian government’s human rights performance is muted. The United States and major European donor states view the government as an important ally in an unstable region. Ethiopia remains the largest beneficiary of US military and development aid in sub-Saharan Africa. The US provided logistical and possibly financial support for Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in December 2006 and has not pressured Ethiopia to accede to the Eritrea boundary decision.
Ethiopia is also among the top African recipients of European Union aid. After the
2005 election violence, the UK suspended direct budget support to Ethiopia, but has since increased its aid to an annual GBP 130 million in 2007-2008.
China is an increasingly important trading partner. Chinese-Ethiopian trade has increased 17 percent since 2006, to US$660 million, and Chinese investment has reached $345 million from just $10 million four years ago, according to official figures.
In August 2007 the government expelled two thirds of the diplomatic staff of Norway, apparently for criticizing its human rights record and pressing too aggressively for acceptance of the Eritrea boundary commission decision.
2007 was a bleak and turbulent year for Somali civilians, particularly in the volatile south-central region of the country, following the December 2006 invasion by Ethiopian forces in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which ousted the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) from Mogadishu. The TFG was formed in 2004 following extensive negotiations between Somali factions and clans mediated by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kenya. Before the government was able to impose its authority in Somalia, in 2006 the Islamic Courts emerged as a powerful political force in Mogadishu and surrounding areas, disarming warlords and bringing about unprecedented local stability.
Their emergence threatened the existence of the TFG, and their links with Eritrea and Ethiopian opposition groups triggered Ethiopian military intervention.
Since January 2007, Ethiopian forces deployed in Mogadishu have become increasingly embroiled in a violent counter-insurgency campaign. In one of the world’s most ignored human rights and humanitarian crises, residents of
Mogadishu have been indiscriminately attacked by all of the warring parties, leaving hundreds dead and more than 500,000 displaced according to UN estimates.
Escalating attacks on Ethiopian and TFG forces precipitated a massive Ethiopian bombardment of residential neighbour hoods in the capital in March and April 2007 that failed to quell the insurgency, but took a heavy toll on civilians. As part of the crackdown, Ethiopian and TFG forces also harassed and arbitrarily detained civilians. Tens of thousands of people suffered widespread looting, sexual violence, and lack of access to humanitarian relief while fleeing the clashes in Mogadishu, which escalated again in November and show no sign of abating.
The violence and lawlessness of Mogadishu is extending to other regions. The southern port town of Kismayo remains in the hands of clan militias opposed to the TFG. Another port town, Merka, located 100 kilometers south of Mogadishu, witnessed growing fighting in October between two rival groups affiliated to the TFG.
Two formerly peaceful regions, Somaliland and Puntland, clashed over Las Anod, a town on the border which is claimed by both regions. Puntland is reportedly regrouping after Somaliland forces took the town on October 15.
But Mogadishu remains the focal point for the country’s seemingly endless cycle of violence. There, representatives of the media and civil society are increasingly under threat from all the warring parties, particularly the TFG, which has repeatedly
_______________Autres communications publiées par la LDDH.
All parties in the escalating conflict in Somalia have regularly committed war crimes and other serious abuses during the past year that have contributed to the country’s humanitarian catastrophe, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the United States, the European Union, and other major international actors to rethink their flawed approaches to the crisis and support efforts to ensure accountability.
The 104-page report, "So Much to Fear: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia," describes how the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the Ethiopian forces that intervened in Somalia to support it and insurgent forces have committed widespread and serious violations of the laws of war. Frequent violations include indiscriminate attacks, killings, rape, use of civilians as human shields, and looting. Since early 2007, the escalating conflict has claimed thousands of civilian lives, displaced more than a million people, and driven out most of the population of Mogadishu, the capital. Increasing attacks on aid workers in the past year have severely limited relief operations and contributed to an emerging humanitarian crisis.
"The combatants in Somalia have inflicted more harm on civilians than on each other," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "There are no quick fixes in Somalia, but foreign governments need to stop adding fuel to the fire with misguided policies that empower human rights abusers."
Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, and a UN peacekeeping operation withdrew in failure in 1995. The years since have been violent and chaotic. In December 2006, Ethiopian military forces intervened to back Somalia’s weak TFG against a coalition of Islamic courts that had won control of Mogadishu. In the past two years, the conflict has escalated dramatically, and internationally backed peace talks have failed to make any impact on the ground.
The report draws on interviews with more than 80 witnesses and victims of abuses, who described attacks by all the warring parties in stark detail.
Each party to the conflict has indiscriminately fired on civilian neighborhoods in Mogadishu on an almost daily basis, leveling homes without warning and killing civilians in the streets. Insurgent forces have regularly carried out ambushes and roadside bombings in markets and residential areas, and launched mortars from within densely populated neighborhoods. Ethiopian forces have reacted to insurgent attacks with indiscriminate heavy rocket and artillery fire, with devastating impact on civilians.
TFG security forces and allied militia have tortured detainees, and killed and raped civilians and looted their homes, sometimes in the context of house-to-house joint security operations with Ethiopian troops. Ethiopian forces, who were relatively disciplined in 2007, have been more widely implicated in acts of violent criminality this year. Insurgent forces have threatened and murdered civilians they view as unsympathetic to their cause and have forcibly recruited civilians, including children, into their ranks.
The full horror of these abuses can be captured only through the stories of Somalis who have suffered through them. Human Rights Watch interviewed teenage girls raped by TFG security forces, parents whose children were cut to pieces in their own homes by Ethiopian rockets, and people shot in the streets by insurgent fighters for acts as trivial as working as a low-paid messenger for TFG offices. One young man described watching a group of Ethiopian soldiers rape his mother and sisters in their home. "And I was sitting there helpless," he said. "I could not help my mother or help my sisters."
For many, the worst of it is being caught between all three sides at once. One young man was given an ultimatum by radical Islamist Al Shabaab fighters in his neighborhood to join them or face retribution. Days later, he came home from school to find that his mother had been killed and his house destroyed in an unrelated artillery bombardment.
"The world has largely ignored the horrors unfolding in Somalia, but Somali families are still left to confront violence that grows with every passing day," Gagnon said. "Even those who try to flee find that the violent abuses follow them."
Hundreds of thousands of Mogadishu’s poorest residents, lacking the money to travel further, have congregated in sprawling displaced persons camps along the Mogadishu-Afgooye road, but the indiscriminate fighting they fled has followed them there.
Tens of thousands of Somali refugees have also fled the country this year. Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps are now the largest concentration of refugees anywhere in the world, with nearly 250,000 inhabitants. But the journey itself is perilous. Human Rights Watch interviewed many refugees who had been robbed, raped, or beaten by freelance militias as they fled Somalia. Kenya’s border with Somalia is closed, leaving refugees at the mercy of abusive smugglers and corrupt Kenyan police.
Hundreds of Somalis have drowned trying to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, often after being forced overboard or abandoned at sea by traffickers.
The United States, the European Union, and governments in the region have taken few positive steps to address the worsening situation in Somalia, and have too often taken actions that have made it worse.
Ethiopia is a party to the conflict, but has done nothing to ensure accountability for abuses by its soldiers. The United States, treating Somalia primarily as a battlefield in the "global war on terror," has pursued a policy of uncritical support for transitional government and Ethiopian actions, and the resulting lack of accountability has fueled the worst abuses. The European Commission has advocated direct support for the transitional government’s police force without insisting on any meaningful action to improve the force and combat abuses.
In recent months, the conflict has increasingly spread into neighboring regions and countries in the form of bombings and other attacks – precisely what Ethiopia’s military intervention in 2006 sought to prevent. During the latter half of 2008, there have been suicide bombings in the previously more stable semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland, as well as rampant piracy on the high seas, and kidnappings across the border in Kenya.
"The Somali crisis is not just a nightmare for its people, it is a regional threat and a global problem," Gagnon said. "The world cannot afford to wait any longer to find more effective ways of addressing it."
Human Rights Watch called for a fundamental review of policy toward Somalia and the entire Horn of Africa in Washington, where the Obama administration will have an opportunity to break with the failed policies of its predecessor, and in European capitals. It also called for the establishment of a UN-sponsored Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international law, map the worst abuses, and lay the groundwork for accountability.