The history of human rights violations against Somali citizens by their government under the rule of Siad Barre contributed to an overthrow that forced him to flee in 1991. The subsequent power vacuum led to the Somali civil war that continues to rage on to this day. For over 23 years, Somalia has been ravaged by human rights abuses, war crimes and the lack of a developed justice system to deal with these issues.
The main players at this moment are the Islamic backed forces, al-Shabaab, and the pro-government forces, the Federal Republic of Somalia, Ethiopian troops and African Union troops operating under the African Union Mission to Somalia. While the faces have changed throughout the 23 year conflict, the main points of contention remain the same.
The Islamic forces wish for the country to become an Islamic state ruled under Sharia law, while government forces aim for the country to follow through with the constitution that founded the federal republic in 2012. Major human rights violations are committed on both sides of the Civil War, limiting positive change in the country.
Human rights violations include indiscriminate attacks against civilians, displacement of persons, restrictions on humanitarian aid, rape, recruitment and use of child soldiers, unlawful killings and torture by armed groups and armed piracy off the Somali coast. Various treaties including the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights forbid the indiscriminate use of force against civilians. According to Amnesty International, “all parties to the conflict use mortars and heavy weapons in areas populated or frequented by civilians, killing and injuring thousands of people, many of which are women and children under the age of 14.”
The killings not only affect those being killed, but they also the education of the Somalis. A report by Amnesty International states that, “in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, many schools have closed down as students and teachers fear being injured and killed on their way to school.” These indiscriminate killings by forces on both sides will lead to the further destruction of the country and its future. The Somalis need to continue their education in order to push the country towards a better path.
The topic of child soldiers has gained popularity in the last few years due to campaigns such as “Kony 2012.” The use of child soldiers is not limited to Uganda, however, and Somalia is a prime example of the horrible atrocities that occur while using them. According to a January 2013 Human Rights Watch report, “al-Shabaab has increasingly targeted children for recruitment, forced marriage, and rape, and has attacked teachers and schools.”
However, government forces have also used child soldiers, as described later in the same article. “In July 2012, the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] signed a plan of action against child recruitment; yet the same month, 15 children were identified among a group of new recruits sent to a European Union-funded training in Uganda.” Abuses are occurring on on both sides of the conflict, and further action may need to be taken by outside parties.
The problems with human rights violations occurring in Somalia do not seem to be getting any better. Unfortunately, humanitarian access to those who need aid is limited at the moment because of restrictions from allies to the conflict, diversion of aid and insecurity. The few humanitarian workers still in the country are being targeted, further limiting access to much needed aid.
– Kenneth W. Kliesner