Condemning the recent attacks on civilians in Somalia, a senior United Nations human rights official today urged greater efforts to tackle decades of impunity, which she described as one of the root causes of conflict in the strife-torn nation.
“Addressing the continuing cycle of impunity and violence should be a cornerstone in the foundation of building peace in Somalia,” said Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, adding that it should serve as a deterrent to would-be violators that they will be held to account.
“Even as conflict continues in some areas, we must begin the work of systematically documenting the most serious abuses throughout the years of conflict with the vision of one day holding perpetrators to account,” she added.
Ms. Kang spoke to victims of the conflict who had recently fled the capital, Mogadishu, as part of her three-day visit to Kenya, Somaliland and Puntland.
Recent weeks have seen an upsurge in fighting between Islamist rebels and Somali’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), leading to the deaths of more than 200 civilians in Mogadishu and the uprooting of thousands more.
Peacekeepers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have also come under attack.
“It is difficult to find words strong enough to condemn the ruthless attacks and abuses against civilians by the Al Shabaab and other armed groups that have caused this forced displacement, as well as their cowardly attacks against AMISOM peacekeepers,” said Ms. Kang.
The international community as well as authorities must step up their efforts to see that internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are provided adequate assistance and protection in line with international standards, she said.
“Concerns about security are legitimate and governments are obliged to tackle crime and insecurity,” she noted. “But this must not serve as an excuse to restrict human rights. Rather, human rights should serve as the guiding principles and foundation for creating a secure environment.”
During her visit, Ms. Kang also held extensive discussions with Somali authorities, civil society groups, UN colleagues, senior officials from AMISOM and members of the international community in Somaliland, Puntland and Nairobi.
She pledged the assistance of the UN human rights office (OHCHR) to help Somalis and members of the international community to combat impunity, and stressed that all Somali leaders must put aside self-interests and work with more intensity towards an inclusive and sustainable peace.