The new report by the Independent Expert on Somalia highlights the need for the Human Rights Council to encourage UN member states and key human rights entities such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to step up its engagement on human rights in Somalia.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the fighting in Somalia, notablyduring a series of offensives launched in February 2011 by forces allied to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) against the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab. There have been serious violations of international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict, including indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, summary killings, and other abuses have also been documented. The fighting has reportedly resulted in more than 8,000 civilian casualtiesin 2011  Tens of thousands of Somalis have been displaced from their homes, including over 87,000 who have crossed into Kenya in the first seven months of 2011.

All warring parties, including the TFG and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), should issue clear public orders and take all necessary steps to ensure their compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Violations should be promptly, impartially and transparently investigated, those responsible should be held to account, and victims should be meaningfully compensated for loss of life, injury or property damage. Nearby states should allow people fleeing conflict and drought safe passage to seek asylum. 

Somalis fleeing from al-Shabaab-controlled areas have reported widespread human rights abuses. Al-Shabaab continues to carry out public beheadings and floggings; forcibly recruits both adults and children into its forces; imposes onerous regulations on nearly every aspect of human behavior and social life; and deprives inhabitants under its rule of badly needed humanitarian assistance, including food and water.

The population in areas controlled by the TFG and its allies has also been subjected to human rights abuses. These include arbitrary arrest and detention and restrictions on the rights to free speech and assembly.

The suffering of several million people in Somalia from famine, brought upon by drought, has intensified as a result of severe restrictions on humanitarian aid and continuing abuses in the war-torn country. The conflict and the famine are intimately linked. A more secure and rights-respecting Somalia would be less prone to famine.

Human rights monitoring and reporting on Somalia by the OHCHR remains inadequate. Yet ensuring systematic documentation of ongoing violations is keyto ensuring eventual accountability for these violations.

Ending the impunity for serious international crimes that have long been a feature of Somalia’s civil war is crucial to improving security.Human Rights Watch repeats its call for a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all sides since the beginning of the conflict. Human Rights Watch echoes the previous calls of the Independent Expert in this regard.A documentation of recent and past most serious crimes in violation of international law should be initiated without delay by the OHCHR – as a first step towards a longer term accountability mechanism.