No Peace Without Justice

Somali refugees in Mogadishu camps “not safe from attack”

In an exclusive report, Channel 4 News has spoken to refugees who say women in camps in Mogadishu are being raped and not enough is being done to keep them safe.

Somalia’s capital is now swollen with thousands of new refugees fleeing the drought caused by the failure of the last two expected periods of rain. After hearing international help is on hand, refugees have headed for Mogadishu.

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Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response

Civilian casualties are common in Somalia, the world’s most dangerous country.1  Ravaged by two decades of conflict, the current fighting between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and various armed groups (notably al-Shabaab) continues to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.

Between February and July 2011, CIVIC conducted over one hundred interviews with Somali civilians, humanitarian agencies, the UN and international donors and AMISOM personnel. This report also draws heavily on previous original research. The goal was to inform AMISOM’s and the other warring parties’ response to civilian harm.

This report details the response Somalis want to see when civilians are harmed in conflict. It sets out how traditional dispute resolution mechanisms can inform such responses and makes technical recommendations. We urge AMISOM and its partners to use these findings as a basis for a formal system to address civilian harm. If al-Shabaab does adopt a policy of civilian protection, they too should implement a formal mechanism to track, investigate and respond to civilian casualties they cause.

This report does not focus on accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These must remain a separate priority.

No apology or amount of compensation can give back what Somali war victims and their families have lost. But our findings clearly show that an attempt to respond to their suffering in this conflict can mitigate some of the consequences and return a sense of dignity to the victims and their communities.

Click here for the full report

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Somalia FAMINE ” Crime Against Humanity?

An emaciated child is among the displaced Somalis at the Dadaab refugee complex last month in eastern Kenya.

An emaciated child is among the displaced Somalis at the Dadaab refugee complex last month in eastern Kenya.
By Jens David Ohlin, Special to CNN
August 12, 2011 — Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Editor’s note: Jens David Ohlin is associate professor of law at Cornell Law School and the co-author (with George Fletcher) of “Defending Humanity: When Force is Justified and Why” (Oxford University Press, 2008).

(CNN) – Somalia is known to most Americans as the setting for the book and film “Black Hawk Down” and as the world center for modern-day pirates. It is the poster child for failed humanitarian interventions and for good intentions gone wrong.

But none of that should blind Americans to the horrific humanitarian crisis developing in Somalia, a growing famine that threatens to kill hundreds of thousands of people if they do not receive help from the international community.

Of course, many of the problems that doomed the U.S. intervention in 1992, and led to “Black Hawk Down,” remain. Despite years of diplomatic efforts, Somalia persists in a state of near anarchy. The central government controls only a fraction of the country, and warlords with private militia still battle each other for control of territory and trade. Now, an Islamic insurgency has further eroded security in the region, and organized groups of pirates use Somalia’s anarchy as a launching point for raids against merchant vessels.

A humanitarian intervention in Somalia might be politically difficult for President Barack Obama to justify. With U.S. commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as military operations in Libya continuing without congressional approval, Obama has likely used up his political capital.

Misery in world’s largest refugee camp

But this does not mean that there are no options. The U.N. Security Council can — and should — refer the situation to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for a full investigation into crimes against humanity in Somalia.

In the past, relief agencies have called famines and world hunger a crime against humanity. After all, the right to food is a universally recognized human right. Therefore, the argument goes, if people are dying from a lack of food and potable water, somebody must be responsible and it must be a crime. A crime against humanity sounds just about right.

But calling all cases of famine a crime against humanity is aspirational — a statement about the way the law ought to be, not a statement about what the law is right now. Wishful thinking and moral indignation do not make something a crime against humanity. The fact of the matter is that people die from hunger every day. This may be a moral affront to humanity, but that doesn’t make it a crime against humanity that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

That being said, there is a solid, sober and black-letter rationale for referring this case to the International Criminal Court. Several witnesses have publicly said that they were prevented from leaving the region by armed members of Al-Shabaab, the Islamic insurgent group battling for control of the country. According to these accounts, Al-Shabaab soldiers have set up an internment camp and have imprisoned people to prevent them from leaving. If these allegations are true, they could constitute a solid basis for an indictment for crimes against humanity.

International law defines crimes against humanity as a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. The attack can take one of many forms, including murder, enslavement and deportation. Another example is “imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law,” according to the statute of the International Criminal Court.

Some international courts have also imposed an additional requirement for prosecuting crimes against humanity: The attack must be made pursuant to a state or organizational plan or policy. In the past, an “organizational policy” referred to entities such as the Gestapo in Nazi Germany that perpetrated crimes against their own citizens.

In the case of Somalia, Al-Shabaab could be considered an “organization” with a deliberate policy of preventing civilians from leaving their territory. Al-Shabaab has a powerful incentive to prevent Somalis from voting with their feet: It would deprive the insurgency of valuable legitimacy if its population is slowly drained away.

When the United States and United Nations intervened in Somalia in 1992, the International Criminal Court did not even exist. Now, the international community has a new legal and diplomatic tool at its disposal. With government attacks against civilians in Libya and Syria in just the last six months, it is clear that the next decade will witness a dramatic expansion in work for the International Criminal Court. Somalia should be on the agenda.

Members of the Security Council need to act. They don’t need to authorize military force — just a criminal investigation. They don’t need to accept any of the aspirational theories about famine as a violation of international law. They only have to read the legal definition of crimes against humanity.

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Human Rights Watch document outlines numerous abuses by Somalia’s warring parties and repeats call for UN intervention

The warring parties in Somalia should ease rather than thwart the humanitarian effort to deal with drought and famine, a human rightsgroup said on Monday.

Human Rights Watch accused all sides involved in the 20-year conflict of contributing to Somalia’s humanitarian catastrophe by committing serious violations of the laws of war.

According to the UN, at least 3.7 million people are in acute food and livelihood crisis as a result of persistent drought and conflict. Famine was recently declared by the UN in five regions in southern Somalia, including the area in and around the capital, Mogadishu.

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Update: Aid for the food crisis in the Horn of Africa – get data

An estimated 12.4 million people now need humanitarian assistance inSomaliaEthiopiaKenya and Djibouti, according to the UN. The food security crisis in the Horn of Africa has been called the worst humanitarian crisis of 2011 by Antonio Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, and the most severe food crisis in the world today.

But aid donors have been criticised for dragging their feet over sending aid to the affected areas and there have been calls for more funding to meet the need.

The UN says $2.5bn in aid is now needed for the humanitarian response, with a current shortfall of around $950m (down from $1bn on 30 August, $1.1bn on 22 August, $1.22bn on 15 August, $1.33bn on 8 August and around $1.4bn on 1 August 2011).

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No Famine Has Ever Taken Place In A Democracy

On  my Air Canada flight back from Calgary I was riveted by Thomas Keneally’s probing piece in the Toronto Globe And Mail  strongly asserting that the dreadful drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and parts of Kenya  and accompanying famine  are not the chief cause  of the tragic deaths of so many Africans,   especially children, in those African areas. Rather, Keneally, best known for his book “Schindler’s List,”  believes  the killing fields are due to tribal warfare, corruption in the distribution of foodstuffs and armed youth gangs, whose lives are merely “conflicts, raids, and molestation of citizens. Al-Shahab(‘the youth’) –”not drought, that stands between the starving and the food,” says Keneally. “It must be terrifying for the men, women and children now trying to get into Kenya to find themselves surrounded by militia men emerging from the thorn trees.” The message; starvation is nearly always due more to politics and war–than just drought and the absence of water and food. To be fair I was just reminded by a reader that the Irish famine of 1848  did not send  the starving Irish to their graves or to the US because of a war.

For energy investors, there’s the controversial oil pipeline from t he Canadian tar sands all the way to Houston, Texas The Keystone Pipeline is a project opposed by Nebraska farmers particularly because it will run through the Ogallala Aquifier which is a massive underground supply of water which provides 78% of the water required ny Nebraska residents like Warren Buffett as well as 83% of the water used for irrigating farmers fields. The very compelling map in the Globe And Mail, Aug. 26– which I have not seen in  such detail in any American media sets the battle-lines; OIL VS WATER. You’ll be hearing a great deal more about this issue as the world’s population increases from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2040.

Robert Lenzner, Forbes Staff

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Un warns of 750.000 deaths as Somalia famine area spreads

The United Nations warned yesterday that as many as 750,000 people could die in the next four months if aid does not reach them in Somalia, declaring that a sixth region in the country’s south is now in famine. Bay province in south-central Somalia is the latest area in the drought-devastated country to be classified a famine zone.

Almost entirely controlled by the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, it is said to have malnutrition rates worse than anything previously recorded in the country. “The rate of malnutrition among children in Bay region is 58 per cent,” the UN’s technical adviser Grainne Moloney said.

More than half the Somali population – around four million people – are now dependent on food aid. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have died in the crisis, which has also hit areas in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda, after the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years.

As many as 150,000 people have fled their homes, filling refugee camps in search of help.

More than £1bn has been donated to help respond to the emergency since it was first declared at the beginning of July. But the UN says its not enough to stop people dying of hunger.

“The increase in humanitarian funds that have come in since July has allowed us to immediately and significantly scale up our response, but this external support will need to be sustained,” Ms Moloney said. “These funds have only just begun to flow in now and we can expect our activities to continue to scale-up.”

Somalia has been worst hit by food shortages, which have been compounded by the country’s brutal 20-year civil war.

Accessing people in large parts of the country controlled by militants has been almost impossible for all but a handful of aid agencies, which operate on an extremely limited basis.

At the weekend, the head of the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a stinging attack on the appeal for aid, arguing that some agencies were misleading the public on how much they can achieve in Somalia.

“MSF has been working in Somalia for 20 years, and we know that if we are struggling then others will not be able to work at all,” Dr Unni Karunakara said. The reality on the ground is that there are serious difficulties that affect our abilities to respond to need.”

He said members of the public donating money should know that nearly all aid being delivered is distributed in the capital Mogadishu

By Flora Bagenal in Nairobi

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