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Somalia: UN expert calls on international community to protect civilians and pursue rights violators

GENEVA (10 August 2010) – The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, today urged the international community to provide due attention to the protection of civilians in Somalia and ensure accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights and International Humanitarian law violations.

“I am deeply disturbed by the continuing endless reports of civilian casualties- many of them women and children- caused by ongoing fighting in South-Central region and in Mogadishu,” said Mr. Bari, who has just completed his fifth country visits to Kenya, Somalia and Uganda (26 July-6 August). “One Mogadishu hospital alone reported that it had treated 1,400 war-wounded persons in the first six months of the year.”

“Many children and young people risk being recruited by armed groups and used in the front lines and there are generations who have known nothing but violence and conflict,” the UN Human Rights Council Independent Expert warned.

Reports, including from Elman Human Rights Group, say that at least 918 civilians died and 2,555 others were injured in violence since January. “The death toll of the first seven months of 2010 is higher than that of the same period in 2009” Mr. Bari noted. “Most of the casualties were caused by shelling by the warring groups in Mogadishu.”

Somali people are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. One in every seven Somali children dies before the age of five and one in every five children living in the South-Central region is malnourished, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

“I urge the international community to explore all possible means to stop summary executions, including beheadings of innocent people, amputations, flogging whipping, forcible marriage of young girls to militiamen, use of civilians as human shield, imposition of strictest dress code to women and prohibition of use of public mass medias and the bans imposed on hearing music and public gathering, all with lack of due process,” the Independent Expert said.

“I have taken note of the legitimate security concerns of the Puntland Authorities,” the Human Rights Council envoy said, “and would at the same time encourage them to continue to provide their fellow Somali sisters and brothers from South-Central regions seeking shelter in Puntland with protection and hospitality in compliance with their obligations under international law.”

However, Mr. Bari warned that “law, without enforcement, is of little consequence to victims at the hands of the perpetrators;” and called on the international community to help make perpetrators accountable.

“To be effective in the protection of civilians, the international community, including the United Nations and the African Union must work in unison to provide effective protection to all civilians and to ensure accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights and international humanitarian law violations that may amount to the war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.

Finally, the Independent Expert congratulates the Somaliland people for the successful Presidential Election held on the 26 June 2010: “I welcome the commitment made by the new President to enforce the rule of law and respect for Human Rights.”

See the Independent Expert’s reports on Somalia: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=48

OHCHR Country Page – Somalia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SOIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Idrissa Kane (Tel.:+ 41 22 928 9810 / e-mail: ikane@ohchr.org) or write to ie-somalia@ohchr.org