Date: Fri, 11 Jul 97 09:29:50 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Somalia:Human Rights Abuses by United Nations Forces
/** headlines: 197.0 **/
** Topic: Somalia:Human Rights Abuses by United Nations Forces **
** Written 7:41 AM Jul 10, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 12:13 PM Jul 10, 1997 by afrights@gn.UUCP in africa.news */
Somalia:Human Rights Abuses by the ---------- */
From: afrights (African Rights)
Subject: Somalia:Human Rights Abuses by the United Nations Forces
Human rights abuses by the UN forces in Somalia are back in the news. It is exactly four years since African Rights first drew attention to the fact that Belgian, Italian, American and other troops serving with the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) were committing a disturbingly high level of human rights violations. At the time, the UN and the countries sending troops did all they could to deny our reports and discredit what we were doing. In July 1993 the UN in Mogadishu even instructed that African Rights co-director Alex de Waal be arrested and detained if he entered UN premises.
Subsequently it has become clear that our charges were accurate and justified. If anything, the level of abuses was higher than we reported, as indicated by exposure of other incidents by Belgian and Italian soldiers. But to date only the Canadian government, to its credit, has conducted anything resembling a full and thorough inquiry, and taken requisite measures including disbanding military units. The recent acquittal of Belgian paratroopers charged with assault after they held a Somali boy over a burning brazier is shocking.
To date, most media attention has focussed on abuses by individual soldiers, and the lack of preparation they received before going to Somalia and the cover-up by more senior officers. These are all serious problems warranting immediate action. But there is another, potentially even more serious issue, that warrants attention. During the war between UNOSOM and the Somali National Army of General Mohamed Farah Aidid between June and October 1993, senior officers in UNOSOM and the U.S. military gave orders for military actions that were grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. These included helicopter attacks on civilian targets and assaults on hospitals. At the time, UN and U.S. spokesmen defended these actions saying that ’the normal rules of engagement do not apply’ and that the forces were bound only by the UN Security Council resolution authorising ’all necessary measures’ to apprehend General Aidid. This cannot be justified. UN forces must comply with the laws of war, even if their adversaries do not. In addition, the resulting estrangement between large sections of the Somali population and the UN forces because of these violations was an important, though little-recognised, reason for the collapse of the intervention.
In July 1993 African Rights called for independent investigations into suspected grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (i.e. war crimes) perpetrated by U.S. and U.N. forces, and if appropriate the trial of the officers responsible. We repeat the call.