War Crimes Committed in Somalia, Ethiopia
- EUROPEAN UNION OFFICIAL SAYS WAR CRIMES MAY HAVE BEEN COMMITTED BY
FORCES IN SOMALIA
NAIROBI, Kenya Ethiopian and Somali forces may have committed war
crimes in battles against insurgents and European Union countries
could be considered complicit if they do nothing to stop them,
according to an EU email obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.
The warning, by a senior security official, came in an urgent e-mail
to Eric van der Linden, the EU ambassador based in Nairobi.
"I need to advise you that there are strong grounds to believe that
the Ethiopian government and the transitional federal government of
Somalia and the African Union (peacekeeping) Force Commander, possibly
also including the African Union Head of Mission and other African
Union officials have through commission or omission violated the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court," the e-mail said.
EU officials, speaking on condition they not be named because a legal
matter was involved, confirmed the e-mail's authenticity.
The author, whose name was blanked out on the copy obtained by the AP
but whose senior position was apparent from the text, went on to
detail the exact statutes that were violated. They included
intentionally directing attacks against civilians and ordering the
displacement of civilians for reasons related to the conflict.
"In regard to the above mentioned potential violations of
international law there arise urgent questions of responsibility and
potential complicity in the commission of war crimes by the European
Commission and its partners," the e-mail continued. The European
Commission has been a major financial backer of the Somali government
and the African Union peacekeeping mission, which is currently made up
of only Ugandan troops.
The e-mail was sent April 2, following four days of the heaviest
fighting in Somalia in 15 years. On the day after the e-mail was
written, the European Union issued a statement calling for an end to
"We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of the conflict
in Mogadishu and the indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated
areas," the EU statement said on April 3. Such a statement could
absolve the EU from failing to act to stop the alleged war crimes.
In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, residents were still burying bodies
from last week's fighting, which killed hundreds of people. Aid
organizations said it was the worst in 15 years. A fragile five day
cease-fire was still holding but residents were fleeing, fearing new
clashes between Somali government forces, their Ethiopian backers and
Richard Hands, deputy head of delegation for the EU in Kenya and
Somalia, said the e-mail was a routine review of the potential for war
crimes in conflict areas where the EU is working.
"These allegations are, of course, taken seriously and we are looking
into it," he said. "The European Union takes international
humanitarian law very seriously and are always aware in situations
where it is working."
The priority in Somalia is reconciliation that is inclusive and
genuine, he added.
Somali officials were unreachable for comment.
The e-mail comes just days before the EU was expected to release $20
million for the African peacekeeping force and could lead to its
suspension, a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity because
he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The United States is also a major financial support of the Somali
government and the peacekeepers, pledging more than $120 million.
Solomon Abebe, spokesman for the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs
called the allegations a "fabrication."
"The international community, everybody knows that this is false," he
But European diplomats said they were concerned.
"We are looking at this from a legal point of view at the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs in Stockholm," said Jens Orlander, the Swedish special
envoy for Somalia based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The European Union has no mechanism for investigating and prosecuting
war crimes in Somalia, that would fall on the International Criminal
One Somali human rights group, which asked not to be identified for
fear of retribution, said it was gathering evidence of war crimes in
Somalia for submission to the International Criminal Court for
possible future prosecutions.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and his cabinet ministers have
repeated called for civilians to leave their homes because insurgents
have fired mortars at Ethiopian and government troops from densely
The U.N. refugee agency says some 124,000 people have fled Mogadishu
since the beginning of February. In the last six days 73,000 have fled
New York-based Human Rights Watch called Friday for all sides to end
indiscriminate attacks against civilians.
"Civilians in Mogadishu are paying an intolerable price for the
failure of all sides to abide by the rules of warfare," said Georgette
Gagnon, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch.
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