UN official backs probe of Somalia abuses – LONDON (Reuters)
A United Nations official said on Friday an international commission of inquiry should be set up to investigate war crimes he said had been committed in Somalia.
“I honestly think that there have been very serious war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed by most if not all the parties to the conflict,” the U.N. refugee agency’s representative to Somalia, Guillermo Bettocchi, said.
“I certainly think that there should be a mechanism to bring those responsible for that to justice,” he said, speaking at an event in London.
Bettocchi said his personal view was that an international commission of inquiry should be formed to investigate such violations and that the evidence should eventually be handed over to an international criminal tribunal.
Bettocchi, who is based in Nairobi, said there was an environment of total impunity in Somalia. “People in Somalia commit the most serious violations knowing that nothing will happen to them,” he said.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has also called for a commission of inquiry to probe abuses in Somalia, which has been in chaos since warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.
U.S. ally Ethiopia sent its army into Somalia to topple an Islamist administration in Mogadishu and rescue the Western-backed transitional government at the end of 2006.
At least 10,000 civilians were killed in an ensuing Iraq-style insurgency that fomented piracy in shipping lanes off the coast.
According to the UNHCR, 470,000 Somali refugees are living in nearby countries and 1.3 million are internally displaced, driven from their homes by the violence.
The Ethiopians withdrew in January and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist who led the sharia courts government overthrown by them, was sworn in as Somali president, raising hopes that a way could be found out of the conflict.
Human Rights Watch accused the United States in February of turning a blind eye to abuses by its allies in Somalia.
In a May 2008 report, Amnesty International said all parties to Somalia’s conflict had carried out rights abuses including executions, rape and torture.
The Ethiopian and the then Somali government denied committing rights abuses.