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A dozen UN experts jointly express deep concern over casualties in Somali capital

A dozen UN experts jointly express deep concern over casualties in Somali capital

Twelve United Nations experts united to voice their deep concern today about the recent violence in the Somali capital Mogadishu, where hundreds of people have been killed in the latest clashes and hundreds of thousands forced to flee in recent months.

“This is the second major escalation in fighting in Mogadishu in the past month alone and we are very concerned that civilian fatalities and casualties will increase in the coming days,” the experts said in a statement calling on warring sides to immediately halt the fighting.

Since the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from the capital and much of the country last December, there has been an upsurge in violence. Clan-based militias have also been involved in the clashes. The break in fighting between warring sides agreed to early this month crumbled when the fighting resumed on 11 April in Mogadishu.

Fierce fighting resumed between Ethiopian and Somali forces and insurgents during the past week in Mogadishu, with almost 400 reported to have been killed and 700 more injured, according to the experts. Nearly two-thirds of those killed and wounded are the elderly, women and children.

Thousands are trapped in Mogadishu while hundreds of thousands of people have fled the capital since February, adding to the more than 400,000 already displaced within Somalia.

“We are also deeply troubled about reports of indiscriminate artillery fire, shelling and car bombs in civilian areas,” the experts said, adding that non-military targets such as hospitals and schools have been bombed. They also noted that the wounded in Mogadishu are being blocked from fleeing or from receiving much-needed humanitarian assistance and protection.

“All parties to the conflict must respect applicable international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” they asserted. “We wish to remind all that humanitarian access and safe passage for those civilians fleeing the conflict must be granted.”

The experts issuing today’s statement are: the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk; the Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights in Cambodia, Yash Ghai; the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, Okechukwu Ibeanu; the Special Rapporteur on the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt; the Representative of the Secretary General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Walter Kälin; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari; the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler.

Yesterday, the Security Council issued a presidential statement in which the 15-member body deplored the civilian casualties from the intensified fighting in Somalia and called on the Government to reach out to all segments of the war-torn country’s society to start a dialogue. The Council also demanded that all sides allow relief aid to reach those in need.