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AU rejects allegations of rights violations by its troops in Somalia

The African Union Commission on Wednesday rejected allegations of human rights violations by its peacekeepers in Somalia, saying the United Nations did not carry out thorough probe into certain incidents on its mission’s operations.

A report published the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) did not provide evidence to back the allegations, the AU Commission said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

“The commission has noted with concern that the report contains significant misrepresentations of certain incidents pertaining to AMISOM operations in Somalia,” the pan-African body said, using the acronym for the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The UN report ignored conclusive investigations carried out by the AU Mission’s internal investigative organs, such as the Board of Inquiry (BoI), without presenting any hard evidence to substantiate the report’s conclusions, the AU statement said.

The AU Commission said the report, which accuses AMISOM troops of killing and maiming 178 civilians in the period between Jan. 1, 2016 and Oct. 14, fails to provide evidence to support these allegations.

The UN report said that during the period, UNSOM documented a total of 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries, with 60 per cent of the casualties attributed to al-Shabaab militants.

The UN also said 13 per cent to clan militias, 11 per cent to “state actors,” including the army and the police, four pe rcent to AMISOM, and 12 per cent to unidentified or undetermined attackers.

The report attributed significant number of recorded civilian casualties, 251 killed and 343 injured, to clan militias, in areas where federal or state security forces are largely absent.

The report, entitled “Protection of Civilians: Building the Foundation for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Somalia,” noted that civilians were the victims of unlawful attacks, by being directly targeted and through the use of indiscriminate bomb and suicide attacks, by non-state groups.

The UN report said that such attacks, which are prohibited under international human rights and humanitarian laws, are, in most cases, likely to constitute war crimes, and it is imperative that perpetrators are identified and held accountable.

However, the AU Commission clarified that AMISOM troops are exonerated in the Ceelbuur incident of May 7, 2016, and the Bulo-Burto incident of April 2016, after investigations provided no evidence of human rights violations by its troops.

“These cases are, unfortunately, mentioned in the report as factual cases of rape, perpetrated by AU peacekeepers,” it said.

The commission said investigations into the Garastan incident of June 18 are still ongoing and have not been concluded, expressing concern that details of a not-yet-concluded investigation has been used to corroborate the report’s findings.

“In spite of the thorough nature of the AMISOM BoI investigation and the fact that its findings were transmitted to the head of UNSOM, the report, ignoring these facts, proceeded to treat the Elbur (Ceelbuur) incident as a conclusively proven allegation against AMISOM,” said the AU.



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