The United Nations Security Council’s renewal yesterday of the mandate for African Union forces in Somalia seeks to address the thorny issue of justice for abuses by AU troops.
Since 2007, Human Rights Watch has been documenting serious abuses by troops from the peace support force, known as AMISOM – unlawful killings of civilians, and sexual exploitation and abuse, among others. But there have been no credible and transparent investigations and prosecutions of these crimes.
The Security Council resolution calls on the countries that contribute troops to make sure that abuses are investigated. In the past, the abuses had hardly been a priority for AMISOM itself, the troop-contributing countries, or their international and regional backers.
A major obstacle to justice has been a lack of political will. The troop-contributing countries, and the countries supporting them, have not committed the time, resources and effort needed for credible investigations. And time and again, troop-contributing countries have failed to share information with AMISOM leadership, other stakeholders and with the victims themselves.
Yesterday’s resolution lays out some concrete ways to measure the contributing countries’ willingness to allow scrutiny of their conduct.
One test will be their willingness to provide information to AMISOM’s Civilian Casualty Tracking Analysis and Response Cell (CCTARC), which was set up for that purpose. So far, the signs have not been good; when I met with AMISOM leadership in Mogadishu in March, it was clear that troops were not sharing information about reports of or investigations into civilian casualties with the unit.
The resolution also urges compliance with the UN’s human rights due diligence policy, to better ensure compliance with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The UN should make engagement with AMISOM a priority under the due diligence policy, ensure it has the monitoring capacity to implement the policy, and along with the AU, make sure the countries that are unwilling to cooperate will face consequences.
The resolution also calls on AMISOM troops to improve their relationship with communities in Somalia where they are operating, a clear recognition of the growing antagonism toward their forces.
An obvious step toward improving these dynamics would be for the countries sending troops to Somalia to systematically ensure transparent and credible investigations into allegations of AMISOM abuses and to show Somalis that AMISOM is committed to holding abusive troops to account and providing justice for victims.