UN soldiers accused of atrocities in Somalia: Human rights group urges adherence to Geneva Conventions

THE United Nations force in Somalia (Unosom) is accused of atrocities including killing of unarmed people, the bombing of a hospital, beating civilians and theft, according to a report published in London today.*

Africa Rights, a newly formed human rights body, accuses the United States-led operation of 'grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions' and acting with 'near-total impunity'. Complaints procedures against the UN are woefully inadequate, the report says. It calls on the UN to reverse the policy of militarisation of the aid operation and for strict adherence to the Geneva Conventions.

Its most serious complaints concern the helicopter gunship attacks on buildings on 17 June and 12 July, but it also accuses the UN of the killing of unarmed civilians, the forced relocation of Mogadishu residents and the demolition of their homes. 'These are not cases of undisciplined actions by individual soldiers, but stem from the highest echelons of the command structure,' the report says.

The report will reopen the dispute between the American command in Mogadishu and the Italians and other forces that broke out two weeks ago over repeated American helicopter gunship raids aimed at killing General Mohamed Farah Aideed, the leader of the largest Somali faction. The Italians complained that the attempt to kill Gen Aideed was counterproductive, and demanded a return to the humanitarian aims of the operation.

The report concedes that the UN troops are in a difficult and dangerous position and accepts that Gen Aideed's forces have committed many gross violations of human rights, but says this does not excuse UN atrocities in reply. It adds that in Bardera the UN force has been 'consistently respectful of human rights'. It says that the welcome given by Somalis to US forces last December turned to disappointment, then bitterness and finally anger. 'Unfortunately the bloodiest confrontations are yet to come,' it predicts.

Describing the attack on Digfer Hospital by US, French and Moroccan forces - at least nine patients died - Africa Rights says: 'There is a prima-facie case that the UN command in Mogadishu committed a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions . . . The case warrants detailed and independent investigation to determine whether a war crime has been committed, and if so by whom, and with what level of culpability.'

The report also details actions less well covered by the media. It estimates that Belgian forces in Kismayo killed about 50 Somalis in two big battles, and may have killed some 200 since they arrived last December. The Belgians are also accused of throwing children who could not swim into the Juba river.

Africa Rights points out that very little political progress has been made since the UN intervened in Somalia and says: 'The failure of (the UN forces) to undertake real political reconciliation, disarmament or socio- economic reconstruction has led many Somalis to wonder why the forces are in the country at all . . . there is a growing sense of bitterness and anger against the abusive behaviour of the Unosom troops.'

The report says: 'As a result, foreigners in Mogadishu, and increasingly in other areas of Somalia are confined to their compounds. There is a deepening estrangement between Somalis and foreigners . . . Unosom has become an army of occupation.'

The report has been compiled by Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal, who formerly worked for Africa Watch, the US-based human rights organisation. Ms Omaar was sacked last December after she publicly condemned the American intervention in Somalia, and Mr de Waal resigned.

*Somalia Human Rights Abuses by the United Nations Forces, published by Africa Rights.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect