The UN Security Council should strongly condemn serious abuses of civilians in Somalia and establish a commission of inquiry to identify individuals responsible for these crimes, Human Rights Watch said. Later this week, the UN secretary- general is due to present his report on Somalia to the Security Council.

Human Rights Watch today also released video footage documenting the consequences of attacks on civilians in Somalia. Shot in Mogadishu in December 2007, the footage shows wounded civilians in hospitals, devastated homes and deserted neighborhoods.

On March 20, 2008, the Security Council is scheduled to debate what action to take in response to the secretary-general’s report. So far, the Council has limited its discussions mainly to political aspects of the crisis in Somalia, neglecting to address the human rights abuses at the heart of the conflict.

“The Security Council has repeatedly failed to take action to end these horrific abuses of civilians in Somalia,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Council should strongly condemn abuses by all the warring parties, and it also needs to establish a commission to investigate and identify those responsible.”

The human rights and humanitarian situation in the capital Mogadishu and south-central Somalia is dire. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured since the conflict between Ethiopian and Somali government forces and insurgents escalated early last year. All parties to the conflict have been responsible for serious violations of the laws of war that amount to war crimes.

Continuing attacks, threats and violence by the warring parties are provoking ongoing displacement. As many as 700,000 people, or 60 percent of Mogadishu’s residents according to UN estimates, have been displaced from the city.

Somalia’s current crisis has largely gone unreported. The international media presence is minimal. Repeated attacks on Somali media, including the killings of eight journalists last year, have also damaged independent reporting on the situation.

Human Rights Watch called for the Security Council and its member states to clearly support efforts to increase human rights monitoring and ensure accountability. In particular, the Security Council should establish an international commission of inquiry.

“The Security Council needs to send a clear message that crimes committed in Somalia will not go unpunished,” said Gagnon. “Establishing an international commission of inquiry will send that signal to all the warring parties, including the Ethiopians.”