Somalia: Stop Attacks So Help Can Get Through

For Immediate Release

Somalia: Stop Attacks So Help Can Get Through

WASHINGTON - The deaths of at least 40 humanitarian
or human rights workers this year, and the ever growing threat of
attack by armed groups and militias, is putting at least three million
Somalis at even greater risk of malnutrition and disease, Amnesty
International said today.

In a new report
Amnesty International highlights how targeted violence against peace
activists, humanitarian workers and human rights defenders has forced
many organizations to suspend programmes and withdraw staff. This is at
a time when Somalia is in the middle of a humanitarian emergency, with
the United Nations estimating that around 3.25 million Somalis - 43 per
cent of the population - will require food aid until the end of 2008.

These attacks have been motivated by a number of reasons, including
an incorrect but widespread assumption in Somalia that humanitarian
agencies are spies for western governments.

"These killings, abductions and threats mean that workers and rights
defenders no longer enjoy the limited protection they previously held,
based on their status in the community as impartial distributors of
food and emergency services, or as advocates of peace and human
rights," said David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia
Campaigner.

Attacks continue, with UN staff killed by bombing attacks on 29
October, the targeted killing of an UNICEF engineer in the central town
of Hudur on 19 October and a women's rights activist killed in Guriel
on 25 October.

Where the identity of the attackers is known, the majority of
killings have been attributed to members of armed opposition groups,
including al-Shabab militias, and the various Alliance for the
Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS)-affiliated militias (often also called
Islamic Courts).

The remaining killings were attributed to criminal gangs, or in a
smaller number of cases, to militias associated with the Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) or to the Ethiopian military. Most recent
killings have been carried out by one or more gunmen, almost always
described as between 15 and 25 years old. Threats are issued by phone,
in leaflets and by word of mouth.

Amnesty International calls on all parties to the conflict in
Somalia to stop these illegal attacks on humanitarian workers and civil
society.

"International leaders must establish a mechanism, such as an
International Commission of Inquiry, to investigate these killings,
kidnappings and beatings and bring those responsible to justice," said
David Copeman.

"Donor governments and the UN must also increase their efforts to
ensure a transparent and clearly demonstrated distinction between
apolitical emergency humanitarian relief, and any political or
development activities assisting TFG or the peace process."

 

###

Share This Article

More in: