VI. Patterns of Abuses by Parties to the Conflict in Mogadishu

Indiscriminate or Disproportionate Attacks

Early in the morning of the first day, bullets started flying between the insurgents and the government; we could not even leave our homes. The militia [insurgents] that were fighting were behind our compound, I don’t know if they were Al-Shaabab or Hawiye fighters. They were firing mortars and then running away. They were firing the mortars at the TFG and the Ethiopians, at the Presidential Palace and at the Ministry of Defense where the Ethiopians were based. Whenever the insurgents fired mortars at the Ethiopians, the Ethiopians responded with shells, but the Ethiopians shot them untargeted, they killed many civilians and even our animals.
—42-year-old woman from Towfiq neighborhood, describing the events of March 29, 2007.130

While the laws of war do not prohibit fighting in urban areas, combat in Mogadishu has been conducted with little or no regard for the safety of the civilian population, resulting in massive and unnecessary loss of civilian life. All parties to the Somalia conflict have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law by using weapons in Mogadishu without discriminating between military objectives and civilians. Ethiopian forces conducted area bombardments in populated areas and failed to call off attacks that disproportionately harmed civilians. Commanders who order indiscriminate attacks knowingly or recklessly are responsible for war crimes. Casualties have been further heightened by the deployment of insurgent forces in densely populated areas and the launching of attacks from such areas. None of the parties has taken—as international law requires—all feasible precautions to spare the civilian population from the effects of attacks.

The human cost

The appalling consequences of indiscriminate attacks, the deployment of forces in densely populated areas, and the failure of all warring parties generally to take steps to minimize civilian harm is reflected in the thousands of civilians who died or whose lives were shattered by the injuries they sustained or by the loss of family members. It is also reflected in the staggering numbers of people who fled Mogadishu in March and April 2007 and in the scale of the destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, and other infrastructure in Mogadishu.

Local human rights groups and Hawiye clan elders estimated that the numbers of civilians killed in the first round of fighting in March 2007 alone ranged from nearly 400 to 1,000, with more than 4,000 others wounded.131 Hawiye elders estimated that the second round of fighting resulted in the deaths of almost 300 civilians and wounded 587 more.132 It is not possible to give more precise mortality figures at this stage for several reasons.

The intensity of the fighting and bombardment in late-March restricted civilian movement in and around conflict areas. As the fighting escalated on March 29, many of the dead were left in their homes, in other buildings, or even on the streets where they had been killed because it was too dangerous to collect and bury the bodies.133 By April 2, when Ethiopian forces and Hawiye clan elders negotiated a ceasefire to collect and bury the dead, some bodies had already seriously decomposed in the heat, making identification difficult.

On April 4 and 6 the ceasefire committee of Ethiopian officials, Hawiye elders, and Red Crescent staff toured parts of the affected areas. A group of Somali Red Crescent volunteers tried to collect bodies around Ali Kamin junction and Al-Hayat Hospital, just south of the Stadium, which had been one of the frontlines in the previous days, but were unable to move beyond the main road into the affected neighborhoods and assess the situation more closely.134 A credible source said that on April 4 and 6 the Somali Red Cross collected at least 24 bodies from one small section of the neighborhood around Al-Hayat, the vast majority of them civilians.135

According to members of the ceasefire committee interviewed by Human Rights Watch, although some of the dead were not recognizable, others were clearly identified as civilians. For instance, one body was identified by committee members as that of a “madman” who was known in the area, another was a woman who died with a prescription in her hand, and a third was a watchman who was shot while guarding private vehicles. A journalist who joined the ceasefire committee recalled a haunting sight: “I saw a mother and a child, apparently trying to flee the fighting, were caught by bullets and fell in front of their house, dead. They were holding hands.”136

The volatile situation along the frontlines did not permit further attempts to continue collecting bodies and the operations came to a halt. The Hawiye elders estimated on April 10 that based on battlefield assessment, talking to civilians, and hospital records, more than 1,000 people had been killed in the first round of fighting alone.137

Given the scale of the displacement from Mogadishu and the dispersal of families across the country, it is almost impossible to methodically gather and corroborate information about dead or missing family members. In addition, many of the people who died on the spot, or were severely injured and died of their wounds before they were able to access medical care, were not registered in medical facilities or by independent sources. As one medical professional told Human Rights Watch:

Most patients die when wounded, and the worst of it is that patients can’t make it to the hospital after being wounded. Most of the people who arrived at the hospital survived—less than 5 percent died once they reached the hospital. But no one can count how many people died—some just disappeared [were blown apart].138

Access to medical care was particularly difficult during the periods of intense fighting between March 29 and April 1 and in late-April. In addition to the constant rockets, shelling, and mortar fire, both the insurgency and the Ethiopian and TFG forces closed the roads. Thus, many wounded people had to wait until the following days to even try to access hospitals, sometimes in wheelbarrows, on donkey carts, or carried by family, friends, and neighbors.

Al-Hayat and Al-Arafat hospitals, both of which are located in the frontline areas, were also bombarded in the first days of the offensive (see below, “Attacks on Medical Facilities.”) Most of the staff fled and the hospitals stopped functioning, which meant that many civilians had to undertake dangerous journeys through the city to get to functioning facilities further away, such as Medina and Kaysanay. Several Somali doctors working in the hospitals made public appeals to all parties to permit wounded civilians to access medical care, as did the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but no one heeded these appeals.139

Even though an unknown number of people died from their injuries or were unable to access medical care, Mogadishu’s hospitals were still inundated as the fighting escalated. The types of injuries treated in the city’s medical facilities illustrate the change in the means of warfare to more destructive forms of weaponry. Gunshot wounds, by far the most common type of violence-related trauma injury in Mogadishu in the first months of the year (and in prior years), were rapidly outnumbered by shrapnel wounds as the conflict escalated.

As one medical staff member noted:

The injuries and profile of the injured are different from the usual violence in Mogadishu, which is usually injuries of individuals from light weapons. Different weapons are being used than before. At the hospitals you see injuries from tank shells, mortars, Katyusha rockets. It’s urban warfare in the middle of the city…You see whole families at the hospitals, because the shells are landing on homes. The scenes at the hospital are horrible: children with legs and arms amputated, people with intestines coming out and with head injuries.140

Types of weaponry used in Mogadishu

Ethiopian forces, TFG forces, and the insurgency have used weaponry without sufficient precision to minimize or avoid civilian casualties in an urban setting such as Mogadishu. Some weapons, particularly the BM-21 multiple-rocket-launchers (firing “Katyusha” rockets) used by Ethiopian armed forces, are inherently indiscriminate weapons that should never be deployed in a populated urban environment. Other indirect-fire weapons, such as mortars, can be very accurate weapons when used with spotters or other guidance systems; however, Human Rights Watch’s research found no evidence of the systematic use of spotters or other guidance for the mortar rounds fired by the insurgency or Ethiopian forces, making such indirect fire attacks indiscriminate. The result was hundreds of civilian casualties in a very short period.

According to photograph and video evidence and eyewitness accounts obtained by Human Rights Watch, insurgent groups in Somalia are armed with 60, 80, 81, or 82 millimeter (mm) mortars,141rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), B-10 recoilless rifles, Zu-23 and Zu-50 anti aircraft guns, and various other small arms.142 Anti-aircraft artillery mounted on the back of pickup trucks (known as “technicals”) have also been a typical feature of the Somali conflict.

In 2006 the UN Panel of Experts monitoring the porous arms embargo on Somalia documented the supply to the ICU by Eritrea of large quantities of DShK (heavy machine guns), 82 and 120 mm mortars, B-10 recoilless rifles, RPGs, ZU-23 anti-aircraft ammunition, as well as large quantities of PKM machine guns and AK-47 and FAL assault rifles.143 The November 2006 UN report also noted that “new and more sophisticated weapons are also coming into Somalia, including man-portable surface-to-air missiles such as the Strela-2 and 2M, also known as the SA-7a and 7b ‘Grail,’ and the SA-6 ‘Gainful’ low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air missile.”144

While the ICU no doubt used some of this weaponry during fighting with the Ethiopian forces in December 2006, it is very likely that much of it was left in Mogadishu when the ICU fled. The ICU had confiscated many arms from Mogadishu militia when it took control in June 2006, but clan elders apparently demanded that the ICU return confiscated arms when the Ethiopians were approaching.145 The insurgency would also have had access to independent arms traders in Mogadishu’s Bakara market in the early months of 2006.146

By January 7, within 10 days of the arrival of Ethiopian and TFG forces in Mogadishu, armed groups began attacking them with small arms, mortars, and other weaponry. By late March the attacks expanded to include suicide bombings and, in later months, the use of remotely-controlled explosive devices.

The Ethiopian armed forces have used BM-21 multiple barrel rocket launchers firing Katyusha-type rockets, 120 mm mortars, T-55 tanks firing 100mm shells, and M-30 and D-30 artillery in the course of their attacks.147 The Ethiopian military also used Mi-24 helicopter gunships in the first two days of the March offensive, which fired into neighborhoods of Mogadishu. Human Rights Watch’s research has not been able to verify what types of weapons were used on the helicopter gunships, but these gunships have an internal 12.7 machine gun and also likely used 57 or 80 mm rockets. The Ethiopian army ceased using the helicopters after insurgents shot one down on March 30.148

Human Rights Watch was often able to determine the weapons used in a particular attack because civilians in Mogadishu became expert at identifying different weaponry by their specific characteristics. Dozens of eyewitnesses consistently named specific weapons that were used, and accurately described to Human Rights Watch the sound or sight of different types of weaponry even when they were unable to name the exact type of weapon. For instance, individuals repeatedly named BM-21 rockets or Katyushas, which they called “Bii-em” or described as “whistling” due to the sound they made when launched and the loud noise upon impact.149

Numerous eyewitnesses accurately told Human Rights Watch that mortars, by contrast, were silent in their flight. As one person noted, “Katyushas, you know the sound, it sounds like ‘whooooo,’ and then a thud. But with mortars you don’t hear anything.”150

Indiscriminate attacks by Ethiopian forces

When the insurgency launched rocket or mortar attacks, the Ethiopians responded with barrages of rockets, artillery, and mortar shelling of areas of Mogadishu perceived to be the areas of origin of the attack or strongholds of the insurgency. Eyewitnesses to the fighting in March repeatedly told Human Rights Watch that the Ethiopian barrages came from Ethiopian bases located in the former Ministry of Defense building, Villa Somalia, the Custodial Corps headquarters, Kabka (a former repairs factory for the Somali military), and, in April, from the Mohamoud Ahmed Ali Secondary School and the former headquarters of the Somali Police Transport (see Map 2). Many of these locations are two or more kilometers from the neighborhoods they were targeting, distances that would require a spotter in the air or on the ground for mortar shelling to be used with any degree of precision.

The Ethiopian rockets were inherently unable to target specific military objectives. Residents of Mogadishu described patterns of rocket barrages that match the use of BM-21 multiple barrel rocket launchers. The use of BM-21s by the Ethiopian forces was confirmed not only by eyewitness descriptions of the weapons by name but also by description of the sounds they made when fired.

There is strong evidence that the indiscriminate bombardment of populated neighborhoods by Ethiopian forces was intentional. Commanders who knowingly or recklessly order indiscriminate attacks are responsible for war crimes. In Towfiq, Hamar Jadid, and Bar Ubah neighborhoods, eyewitnesses reported that the Ethiopian BM-21 rockets and heavy artillery often landed in systematic patterns, equidistantly, and at regularly spaced time intervals. In Towfiq, for instance, Ethiopian rockets landed 10-20 meters apart, while in Hamar Jadid they were sometimes 40 meters apart.151 One man with a military background told Human Rights Watch, “The Ethiopians would shell on a line—start with one area and move to the next, and the next day they started all over again, the same way.”152 Another man observed, “The shells were coming in a sustained format: each shell fell 40 meters from the other. In some areas, you would find 10 houses next to each other destroyed.”153

According to military experts this type of shelling is typical of area shelling where troops move the coordinates from one target to the next, going down a grid pattern. Area bombardment is fundamentally inappropriate as a strategy to target a mobile insurgency in a densely populated civilian setting. It constitutes an indiscriminate attack, which is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. This type of attack on populated neighborhoods is indicative of criminal intent to blanket an entire area rather than hit specific military objects—evidence of a war crime.

Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by the insurgency

Although the insurgency generally targeted military objectives such as Ethiopian and TFG military units and convoys, there frequently were civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch conducted an analysis of some of the reported attacks by the insurgency between January and March 2007. The numbers presented here are rough estimates based on media and other reports, and are not a conclusive analysis of the impact of insurgent attacks on civilians, and Human Rights Watch was not able to investigate and confirm details of many of the attacks. However, these estimates provide a preliminary basis for assessing the impact of such attacks on civilians. Our analysis covered more than 80 attacks that appeared to target Ethiopian and TFG forces, police and police stations, and military objectives such as the airport and seaport where Ethiopian and TFG forces were located. In the period of January to March, approximately 50 civilians died and up to 100 were injured from the attacks; 20 attacks generated the majority of the deaths. In terms of the impact on civilians, one of the clear conclusions is that the insurgency’s attacks, particularly its use of mortars, have at times been indiscriminate or caused disproportionate civilian casualties compared to the expected military gain.

Insurgency attacks on military targets such as military convoys or bases in crowded civilian areas were sometimes conducted without any apparent effort to minimize the effects of such attacks on civilians. While Ethiopian or TFG forces may themselves have failed to take all feasible steps to minimize the risks to the civilian population, such as by establishing bases in crowded civilian neighborhoods, this did not relieve insurgent forces of the obligation to minimize civilian harm when conducting attacks. (See also below, “Deployment in populated areas.”)

Many mortar attacks launched at military targets appear to have been poorly targeted because spotters were not used. These mortar attacks failed to hit military objectives, frequently killing and injuring civilians instead. Photo and video evidence of mortar fire by the insurgency confirms that the weapons were typically fired without guidance. A few examples demonstrate these types of attacks:

  • On February 7, 2007, suspected insurgents fired a mortar shell that struck a Qur’anic school in south Mogadishu. Medical officers recorded seven deaths. 
  • On February 14 insurgents fired at least five mortar rounds at or in the direction of Ethiopian forces based in Hodan (possibly Digfer Hospital), the seaport, and Bakara market. A shell apparently aimed at the seaport landed near a group of children who were swimming. One child died and six were wounded. In total, the five shells killed at least four civilians and wounded 17 people, all of whom are believed to be civilians.154
  • On March 8 insurgents targeted an African Union convoy with a rocket propelled grenade but missed as it passed a busy junction, two days after Ugandan AU troops arrived in the city. According to press reports, 10 civilians died from the explosion and subsequent gunfight.155
  • On March 18 the insurgency launched more than 10 simultaneous mortar attacks on the seaport and former intelligence headquarters. The mortar attack on the seaport hit a restaurant, killing one person and wounding at least three other civilians.156

As the fighting intensified in late-March, so did the bombardment of neighborhoods like X-Fiyore, just behind Villa Somalia. A resident of X-Fiyore told Human Rights Watch,

The first madfa’ [Somali word for artillery that Somalis often use to describe a weapon making a loud noise] that hit the area came during the Stadium fighting. Four madfa’ landed; it was the second day of the fighting [March 30] around 1 p.m. One man was injured. His name was Dalab, around 65 [years old]. He was taken to Medina hospital. [Others who] died during the stadium battle in Sheikh Sufi neighborhood were two children, age seven and eight years. Both of them were boys. [The children’s aunt] who was visiting the family was injured. This happened on Monday, April 2, 2007. It happened when a mortar hit their house. The missiles that were landing in the area continued. On Thursday, April 5, 2007, three mortars landed in the neighborhood, wounding two sisters [Halimo and Amina Hussein, age around 34 and 35]. Amina’s six-day-old baby girl was killed in the same incident. This happened around 2 p.m.

On the same day, two other mortars landed on a house—one in the house and the other just beside it. The house belonged to a friend, Mohamoud Abshir Shiine. Eight people were injured in this incident.

Just the day before we left, another mortar landed in front of the former national museum. A prominent elder in the area—Sheikh Ali, around 55 [years old], who lived in the museum, was killed. He just came back from prayers at the mosque, around 3 p.m., and was sitting outside when the mortar landed near him. The shell cut him to pieces. Another elder ran towards him in order to help but a second mortar landed and cut off both of his legs. They had both came back from Sheikh Abdilqadir Mosque. You could only see dust and shrapnel at the scene.157

Human Rights Watch cannot confirm which group was responsible for these attacks.  However, the area is close to Somalia’s Presidential Palace which has been a constant target for the insurgent groups.

One eyewitness who lived close to the Ambassador Hotel described to Human Rights Watch attacks that may have violated the prohibition against indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks:

I could not tell the type of weapons used but our area was a constant target for bombings. One of the explosions went off around 100 meters from the Ambassador Hotel. Two people were killed in this attack. It happened between 4 and 6 p.m., I can’t remember the exact date…. Another explosion followed another day at around 7 p.m., killing one man instantly; a second man died of his wounds. Both men were civilians. These explosions seemed to have been targeting a Corolla car transporting a government official.158

Deployment in Populated Areas

International humanitarian law requires that all warring parties must to the extent feasible avoid locating their forces within or near densely populated areas, and must remove civilians under their control from the vicinity of military objectives. They must never intentionally use civilians to shield themselves from attack or to carry out attacks.

The insurgency groups regularly used several populated neighborhoods to launch mortar and other attacks. Residents of several of these areas described to Human Rights Watch the nature of attacks and counter-attacks in the period leading up to the first round of fighting in late-March 2007.

A 33-year-old woman who lived in Laba-dhagax neighborhood, near the Stadium, told Human Rights Watch that insurgent groups had been using her neighborhood to launch attacks and that the Ethiopians responded with BM rockets:

The Muqaawama used to bring their madfa’ in sacks and reassemble [them] on the scene. When the Muqaawama arrived, they used to give orders to people to close their doors and put hands over their ears. They used to come in the evening. They used to launch up to 20 rounds of madfa’ at a time. Sometimes they used to fire madfa’ just opposite my house; they have done this around six times. When this happened we used to vacate the house and take refuge in a concrete building nearby…. Sometimes the Muqaawama fired up to 16 madfa’ and the Ethiopians responded with six rounds of BM missiles.159

A 45-year-old woman living in the Arwo Itko area between Hamar Jadid and Bar Ubah also described insurgency fighters firing mortars from the area. She noted that on the night the Presidential Palace was first targeted on January 19, nine rounds were fired from the area. Ten rockets came in by return fire.160

A resident of the Bar Ubah neighborhood in Hawlwadag district explained the tactics used by the insurgency when firing mortar and artillery shells from within the residential areas:

They used to fire madfa’ from the area and then run away. They have done this continuously throughout [the conflict]. We saw them hiding themselves. They had their eyes and mouth masked. They would come, fire a single madfa’ and run away immediately. They would go somewhere else in the neighborhood and do the same.161

Ethiopian and TFG forces may also have violated the prohibition on deploying a military asset near a densely populated civilian area by placing one of their central bases in Villa Somalia. Action should have been taken to transfer civilians from the vicinity of the base.

Insurgency abuses in response to civilian protests

In some neighborhoods, local residents tried to stop the insurgency from using their areas as locations to launch mortar rounds or stage other attacks. A resident of Wardhigley district said, “They were just 20 people without cars, moving around. They would tell the people there that they come to fight so we could choose to leave. Some elders tried to speak to them to tell them to stop fighting in the area, but they didn’t respect them, saying it was their duty to fight the Ethiopians.”162

By late February, some neighborhoods set up vigilante squads to resist insurgent attempts to use the areas as launch sites for attacks. The underlying motive was to deter Ethiopian and TFG counter-attacks or reprisals on the neighborhoods. According to news reports, some of the areas that applied this strategy included Tawakal in Yaqshid district, Gubta, Hamar Jadid and Wardhigley districts, and NBC neighborhood in Hodan district.163

In a few cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, the insurgency apparently summarily executed individuals who resisted the use of their neighborhoods as launch sites or who were suspected of being informers. A photograph taken on April 24, 2007, appears to show two insurgent fighters in the process of shooting an unarmed man lying on the ground who was suspected of being an informer.164

The February 21 killing of Abdi Omar Googooye, the deputy commissioner of Wadajir District (see below, “Deliberate killings of public officials”), was allegedly due to his involvement in a campaign to set up neighborhood guards and stop the area from being used by the insurgency to launch attacks.165 In Bar Ubah neighborhood of Hawlwadag district, a resident said the “Muqaawama” murdered four members of the neighborhood guards—two who were killed in Bar Ubah and two others killed in the Black Sea area. She could not remember the dates or other details of the killings, and Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm the information.166

A woman living in the Arwo Itko area between Hamar Jadid and Bar Ubah told Human Rights Watch that when a local vigilante group in Hamar Jadid tried to confront the armed insurgency, the latter summarily executed six of them.167 Human Rights Watch learned of these cases in two independent interviews, but was unable to obtain further details of either allegation. 

Attacks on Medical Facilities

The Ethiopian military bombardment in March and April hit several hospitals during the course of the fighting in Mogadishu, causing some hospitals to suspend their provision of medical care at a time when this care was desperately needed by hundreds of people. The protection of hospitals and other medical facilities is a bedrock principle of international humanitarian law. The Second Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol II), on the protection of medical units and transports, which is reflective of customary international law, states,

1. Medical units and transports shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack.

2. The protection to which medical units and transports are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit hostile acts, outside their humanitarian function. Protection may, however, cease only after a warning has been given setting, whenever appropriate, a reasonable time-limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.168

The SOS, Al-Arafat, and Al-Hayat hospitals were located in critical frontline areas caught up in the conflict. Human Rights Watch research found that Mogadishu’s hospitals were bombarded repeatedly and without warning, with loss of civilian life and significant destruction. While it is not clear to what extent the insurgents fired from the near vicinity of the hospitals, the Ethiopian forces should have had no trouble spotting the often tall (by Mogadishu standards) and highly visible hospital buildings. This failure to spare them from bombardment indicates, at minimum, indiscriminate attacks and, at most, deliberate attacks on the hospitals. 169

Shelling and occupation of Al-Arafat Hospital

Ethiopian troops first searched Al-Arafat hospital on January 14, 2007, soon after they arrived in Mogadishu, so its status as a medical facility was known to them. According to eyewitnesses, Ethiopian forces entered the hospital that day at around 5:30 a.m. and conducted a thorough search. Ethiopian soldiers confiscated weapons that were being used by the hospital to protect equipment and patients.170 While international humanitarian law prohibits the use of medical facilities for military purposes, medical personnel may be equipped with light individual weapons.171 A person present said that Ethiopian personnel told hospital staff that day that the hospital was suspected of being a base for the “Courts” and “Ayr clan” insurgent groups.172

Soon thereafter, senior members of the hospital staff visited Ethiopian bases in El-Irfid and Maslah, seeking the return of the confiscated weapons. However, the Ethiopian officials at these bases denied that any confiscation operation had been organized from their base.173

Al-Arafat hospital is located along Industrial Road, northeast of the Stadium in Towfiq neighborhood. On March 29, when the first round of heavy fighting started around the stadium (see Chapter VII, “A Case Study in Laws of War Violations”), the hospital was hit at least four times, including by tank shells and BM-21 rockets. The tank shells hit the water tank, the store, and the office of the hospital director.174 When the fighting started there were more than 30 patients at the hospital. A relative of one of the patients was injured by shrapnel. During the following days, as the fighting continued in the area, the patients were released or referred to other hospitals. The hospital staff took the precautionary step of removing some of the key medical equipment, such as the laboratory equipment and medicines, out of the hospital.175

During the second round of fighting in late April the hospital was hit again. A total of seven rockets struck the hospital: three rockets hit the outpatient department; another three rockets hit the generators store, putting all three generators beyond use;176 and a seventh rocket struck the hospital kitchen. Staff quarters in the hospital were also damaged by these rockets.177

One of the staff who witnessed the events told Human Rights Watch,

These were heavy shells. The shells damaged the outpatient department, making a big hole. The three shells that destroyed the electric generators were the first to hit the hospital around April 20-21. The BMs and rockets landed on top of the buildings. The three shells which hit the generators landed simultaneously. They came from the direction of the Custodial Corps [under control of Ethiopian forces]. The shells which landed in the office of the director and the water tank were tank shells. I know this because it was a direct hit. Our staff saw the tank at the Charcoal Market.178

Available evidence indicates the attacks on Al-Arafat may have been deliberate. Unlike rockets or artillery, tank guns are primarily direct-fire weapons—the tank crew is expected to aim at the target at which it is firing. One of the tank shells struck squarely on the front face of the building, just below a large sign with the name of the hospital. There is little other shell or rocket damage evident on the front of the building.

The actions by Ethiopian officials at the hospital in January raise concerns that the military might have believed the hospital was being used to treat wounded insurgents. This was denied by an eyewitness, who told Human Rights Watch, “[W]e never received any wounded militias.”179 However, even if wounded insurgents had been there, under the laws of war wounded combatants no longer taking part in the hostilities may not be attacked. Others at the hospital—patients, medical personnel, and visitors—are also protected from attack. To deliberately target a hospital is a war crime.180

On April 26, at the end of the fighting, the Ethiopians came into the hospital and occupied the facility for three days. They ordered hospital security guards to leave the hospital after disarming the only security guard, who was armed with an AK-47 to protect the facility.

When staff from Al-Arafat returned to the facility after the Ethiopians moved out on April 29, the hospital had been completely ransacked. One staffer described the scene to Human Rights Watch: “They have broken all doors, the safe, and put everything out of its place. There were files, letters, and books littered inside the rooms. They have taken some of the text and reference books as well as some medical files…The Ethiopian military left graffiti on the walls. One read, ‘al Qaeda Hospital.’”181 The reference of course suggested that the hospital was being used by terrorists.

Shelling and occupation of Al-Hayat Hospital

Al-Hayat hospital is located on the main road from Villa Somalia to the Stadium, close to Ali Kamin junction. Ethiopian bombardments frequently hit this site, particularly in the late March fighting.

On March 29, as the Ethiopian military fought their way to the Stadium from Villa Somalia (see Chapter VII, “A Case Study in Laws of War Violations”), an Ethiopian unit entered Al-Hayat hospital, inspected the facility, and left. There were more than 70 patients in the hospital at the time. The Ethiopian commander did not ask or suggest that staff at the hospital evacuate the patients.182

The following day, March 30, a rocket apparently launched from a BM-21 landed inside the hospital compound, wounding three people including a doctor and damaging cars and rooms in the hospital. Most of the patients were evacuated or left the facility that day, as did many of the staff. A few staff remained to try to protect the facility.183

Two days later, on April 1, Ethiopian troops returned to the hospital and detained the remaining staff. One of the hospital staff who was held at gunpoint and questioned described the events to Human Rights Watch:

The soldiers were different from those who had come the other day. The Ethiopians tried to get into the hospital at around 6 a.m. First they tried to break the gate with a bullet. But the door wouldn’t open. Then they kept knocking until I opened for them. A soldier asked me if there were “al Qaeda” [insurgents] in the hospital. I replied “no.” I showed him around the hospital, the medical equipment, beds, etc. He asked about the patients, I told him they fled because of the fighting.184

According to eyewitness accounts, approximately 150 Ethiopian soldiers entered the hospital and took up defense positions, putting their guns out of the windows. Al-Hayat staff were detained in the building for the next seven days. They saw Ethiopian troops bringing sandbags and rockets into the hospital to consolidate their defense positions in the three-story building, which they used as a base in the following days.

Staff were questioned—“Where is ‘al Qaeda’? Are you with the government or with al Qaeda?”—and were denied permission to leave when they requested it. On April 9, a week after the occupation of the hospital began, the staff were permitted to leave when the ceasefire commission visited Al-Hayat. One of the released staff told Human Rights Watch, “Until the day we left, the hospital and its materials were safe. The money for the hospital staff was secure in the safe; the medical equipment was in order. We were expecting they would leave the hospital intact. We contacted the interior minister and health minister in order to help us get the Ethiopians out.” 185

A week later, Al-Hayat staff returned to the hospital with a team of police officers and were shocked by the destruction they found. Heavy looting had taken place. “The computers, the laptops, the money, and the shelves—all destroyed,” said an eyewitness. The Ethiopian army vacated Al-Hayat hospital on May 5, more than a month after first occupying it. According to a statement seen by Human Rights Watch, the hospital staff estimated that the Ethiopian military caused more than US$800,000 worth of damage.186

International humanitarian law not only prohibits attacks on hospitals, but also stipulates that they not be harmed in any way or that their functioning be impeded, even if they do not have any patients at the time.187

Shelling of SOS Hospital

SOS Hospital, a pediatric and obstetric facility located in Huriwa district, was heavily bombarded by Ethiopian forces in the last days of the conflict in late April. On April 23, 2007, at least five rockets landed in the grounds of the hospital and one rocket hit a ward housing 20 to 30 wounded adults.188

Prior to the bombardment on April 23, the hospital building had been hit by stray bullets but they had caused no casualties or damage. According to eyewitnesses, on April 19 several doctors and elders affiliated with the insurgent groups approached the hospital administration and said they wanted to use the SOS facility to treat their wounded. Apparently the insurgency’s existing medical facility near the Pasta Factory was coming under intense shelling.189

The doctors and elders representing the insurgents and the hospital management agreed to meet the following day, April 20, but the meeting never took place. On April 21 the doctors and elders returned with more than 20 wounded people, the majority of them young men who were apparently fighters, but also some civilians. They came with their own medications to treat the wounded.

Two days later, on the morning of April 23, the hospital was hit four or five times, apparently by BM rockets, with a fixed interval between each rocket strike.190 One round hit the children’s department in the hospital, destroying one room and damaging another. Another round struck the wall of the hospital. Two other rounds landed in a sports field just opposite the hospital. There were no casualties.191

The hospital continued to serve wounded civilians and insurgents for two more days, as fighting grew closer. On the night of April 25 all the wounded people in the hospital were moved out of the facility. The following morning at 8 a.m. the Ethiopian military entered the hospital, asked the staff the whereabouts of the wounded people, searched the wards and stores, and left the hospital within half an hour.192

Over the next 10 days, Ethiopian military roadblocks and security checks in the area near the hospital restricted medical activity. Ethiopian troops returned and searched the facility again in early May, and then again in early July following clashes in the area, but otherwise left the facility untouched.193

Intentional Shootings and Summary Executions of Civilians

Human Rights Watch learned of various incidents in which Ethiopian troops are believed to have intentionally fired upon and killed or wounded plainly identifiable civilians.

On March 29, a 45-year-old charcoal porter and another male civilian were shot and wounded, and a woman civilian killed, by an Ethiopian soldier in Towfiq. The charcoal porter had been collecting charcoal in the Charcoal Market in Towfiq when fighting erupted. He told us,

I didn’t get a chance to escape, [there was] no place to hide so I stayed near a lorry [truck]. There was also another man and a woman hiding by the lorry. There was an Ethiopian soldier close by, in a defensive position [he motions crouching down with a rifle]. Some shells landed near the soldier and he got angry and fired five bullets at us. The woman died and the two men were hit but survived. The soldier was maybe five meters away, he had been there more than five minutes before he fired on us. I know he was an Ethiopian because of his military uniform and they came in two convoys. He was holding a heavy machine gun. The woman’s name was Noura; she was maybe 50, an older woman. She died on the spot.194

Other civilians were shot while trying to flee the area, or when they returned to see if their homes had survived the bombardment and fighting.

On April 26, a 35-year-old businessman came back to his home near the Pasta Factory having fled to Afgoi with his family during the fighting. He came back with two other neighbors to check on their property. He recalled what happened on their return:

We arrived in Huriwa at around 9:30 a.m. As we were walking towards our house near the Pasta Factory, the Ethiopian soldiers called us. They told us to “come.” They spoke to us in Somali…They began to call us repeatedly. We decided to run away from them. They fired at us as we tried to escape from them. The other two survived but I was hit in the upper arm by a small bullet. It is broken around the elbow. All three of us continued running despite the wound and the bleeding. The Ethiopians chased us momentarily but gave up.195

Since the April fighting ended, Human Rights Watch has documented further incidents of killings and summary executions of civilians by members of the Ethiopian military.

On June 19, an Ethiopian military convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near Jaalle Siyad College. After the bomb exploded, at approximately 3 p.m., the Ethiopian soldiers dismounted their vehicles and fired upon a civilian minibus at the Industrial Road, killing a passenger.196 Afterwards, the Ethiopian soldiers raided houses nearby in Damanyo neighborhood where they arrested five men and a boy, including three brothers named Abdulkadir Ibrahim Diriye, Sharmarke Ibrahim Diriye, and 17-year-old Jama Ibrahim Diriye; two construction workers named Abdi Haji Aden Mursal and Abdi Abdullahi Abdulle; and a sixth man only identified as “Deqow.”

A relative of the three brothers saw most of the events. He told Human Rights Watch,

The Ethiopian soldiers were looking for men; lots of people were running away from the area. They entered a house that was being rebuilt, arresting six men including three brothers, a visiting relative, and two builders. The Ethiopians took them away towards the scene of the incident. We thought they were going to detain them. Soon after, we heard gunshots from the direction of the scene. I was the first to go there; I saw four bodies including [the three brothers]…Their bodies were shredded with bullets…They were killed about 4:30 p.m.197

A female family member of one of the men told Human Rights Watch that she counted six bullets in the body of her relative—in the mouth, neck, and chest. Nineteen-year-old Abdi Abdullahi Abdulle’s body was riddled with bullets; his hands were tied behind his back and there was blood all over his body.198

Although this report focuses on abuses in the context of the conflict in Mogadishu, Human Rights Watch has documented further incidents of summary executions by Ethiopian forces. During their campaign to oust the ICU in December 2006 and January 2007, Ethiopian forces operating in southern Somalia, near the border with Kenya, were responsible for at least two summary executions of Somali men. Several eyewitnesses who saw the bodies and were interviewed independently said that after their capture by Ethiopian troops the two men’s hands were bound behind their backs and they were shot several times in the chest.199

Deliberate Killings of Civilians and Mutilation of Captured Combatants

Deliberate killings of public officials

International humanitarian law defines civilians to include government officials, government employees not directly participating in the hostilities, school teachers and other non-combatant civil servants, humanitarian aid and development workers, journalists, and doctors.

The insurgency is responsible for many assassinations or attempted killings of government officials and police. Between February and July 2007 at least nine district or deputy district commissioners in and around Mogadishu were targeted by armed gunmen, bombs, or remote-controlled explosive devices.

Human Rights Watch has not investigated every incident and the following list is not a complete list of attacks, but it illustrates a clear pattern of attacks on public officials:

  • February 3: Col. Mohammed Ali Khalaf, a former police officer, was shot by a gunman while on a minibus at Bar Ubah junction.200
  • February 21: Muhiyadin Hassan Haji, the commissioner for Yaqshid district, was shot four times on his way home from work.201
  • February 21: Abdi Omar Googooye, the deputy commissioner of Wadajir district, was shot dead in a separate attack.202
  • March 13: Ibrahim Omar Shawey, the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, and two of his staff were mortally injured in an explosion.203
  • May 13: Abdullahi Shiikhow Hassan, the district commissioner of Huriwa district, was killed while entering his home.204 
  • June 2: Hassan Ali Farey, the deputy commissioner for Hawlwadag district, was killed as he came out of a mosque.205
  • June 14: Abukar Hussein Bandas, the commissioner for Shibis district, was killed by gunmen.206
  • July 2: Osman Ali, the deputy commissioner for Huriwa district, was shot dead by two men.207
  • July 11: Abdukarim Mohammed Hassan, the district commissioner for Bondhere, was injured in an assassination attempt.
  • July 14: Hassan Ahmed Hassan, the deputy commissioner of Afgoi, was killed by shrapnel from a remote-controlled explosive device.208 A nine-year-old boy, Abdulkadir Muse Dhurow, who was passing by at the time of the explosion, was also killed. Up to four other people including a woman street vendor were injured in the blast.209

Some of the officials listed above—such as Deputy Mayor for Security Ibrahim Omar Shawey—had an explicit role planning or implementing security operations, and therefore may have been legitimate military targets. Some police officers in Mogadishu also participate in the hostilities, for instance, by joining in weapons searches and disarmament operations with TFG or Ethiopian armed forces.

Otherwise, in the cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, the government officials who were targeted appear to have been civilians who were targeted as a symbolic political act, solely because they represented the TFG, and not because they were legitimate military targets.

Abukar Hussein Bandas, the 60-year-old commissioner for Shibis district, was a medical professional who had occupied the position of commissioner for many years and had no known military or security function.  A family member told Human Rights Watch that they had been concerned for his safety for some time because district commissioners were being targeted, and that he was shot twice, in the head and shoulder, by two men with pistols, just after he left his home at 7:15 a.m. on the way to work.210

Killings and Mutilation of Captured Combatants

The insurgency was also responsible for several deliberate killings of captured and wounded combatants and the desecration of corpses. It is a war crime to execute prisoners, whether civilians or captured combatants,211 or to mutilate the bodies of the dead.212

On March 21 in the early morning, TFG forces supported by artillery fire from Ethiopian positions launched a disarmament operation in the Al-Baraka and Shirkole neighborhoods. According to government officials, this was a security crackdown ahead of the reconciliation conference scheduled for mid-April.213 It is unclear how many TFG troops were involved in this operation, but they were met by hundreds of insurgents who ambushed them.214

An unknown number of TFG combatants were killed in the clash and about two dozen were captured. Reportedly the insurgency then either summarily executed up to four of the captured soldiers, or incited local civilians to do so (accounts of what happened vary215).  It is clear from ample video and photographic evidence that the bodies of several TFG combatants were dragged through the streets after being burned;216 eyewitness accounts vary as to whether they were already dead when set on fire or were burned alive.217 The events were filmed and broadcast by several media outlets.

One eyewitness to the events in Shirkole said that the insurgency directly committed the summary execution of four TFG fighters, including the commander:

All four had gunshot wounds when arrested. They were finished off by the Muqaawama. They were arrested at the western gate of Shirkole. I have seen their four bodies. At the eastern gate of Shirkole I saw two dead bodies of TFG soldiers. Three more dead TFG soldiers were lying at the Shirkole-Industrial Road junction. Later, two dead bodies were dragged away towards Ifka Halane. Three other bodies were dragged at Black Sea, Bar Ubah, and Hamar Jadid…It was difficult to identify their faces but they were wearing TFG uniforms. None of them were burned alive. They were all dead when burned.218

A woman who lived in Laba-dhagax area in Hamar Jadid watched similar events from her window, but told Human Rights Watch that she saw three captured wounded combatants burned alive:

In late March, the Muqaawama fought with the TFG and Ethiopians. The area was shelled. But Muqaawama fighters defeated the TFG and Ethiopians. They brought prisoners they have captured during the fighting. On March 21 or 22,219 around noon, Muqaawama displayed three wounded prisoners in Laba-dhagax area in Hamar Jadid district, all of them under 30 years of age. Muqaawama guards were holding guns at them. The prisoners appeared to have had gunshot wounds and were brought on the back of a pickup truck. Muqaawama fighters all had their faces masked. They called the media in order to get the prisoners videotaped…A large number of people gathered around for curiosity. They [the Muqaawama] have also asked some women to get matches and petrol to set them alight. The young men begged not to be burned…Afterwards some came with matches and petrol. The Muqaawama guards started throwing them out of the truck. Some women started setting them alight and then dragged their bodies. I could see all of this develop from the window of the concrete building where I was sheltering.220

Eighteen other TFG fighters captured by the insurgents or local residents in the context of the March 21 operation were reportedly released after being held for several days.221

Abuses of Civilians by the Transitional Somali Government

As noted above, TFG forces led the first disarmament operation that the Somali government launched on March 21. However, after this incident ended in violent debacle TFG security forces took a supporting rather than a coordinating role, playing a secondary role to the Ethiopian military during the March-April offensives.222 Nonetheless, as the responsible government in Somalia, the TFG has important legal obligations to ensure the safety and well-being of the populace.

Unfortunately, the TFG government showed little more regard for the civilian population during the fighting than did the insurgents or the Ethiopian forces. It undertook insufficient or no measures to assist civilians who were under its control and caught up in the fighting to reach more secure areas. And it obstructed rather than assisted humanitarian agencies in the delivery of assistance to its population at risk.

Failure to take necessary steps to protect civilians

Under international humanitarian law, during military operations, warring parties must take constant care to spare the civilian population from unnecessary loss of life and property. Parties conducting attacks must give effectiveadvance warnings to the civilian population unless circumstances do not permit.223 Providing warnings does not allow the attacker to assume that all civilians have left the area; for many reasons—safety, age, health, and availability of transportation—civilians are often unable to flee war zones. Thus attacks carried out after warnings must still at all times distinguish military objectives from civilians, and not cause disproportionate civilian loss.

On at least two occasions in March, high-ranking TFG officials made statements warning civilians of impending attacks. These officials evidently thought circumstances permitted warning the populace, but these warnings were ineffectual. These “warnings” seem to have been designed more to force residents to leave their homes than to actually provide a useful notice of impending fighting. The government instead seemed to make an assumption that all who remained behind were insurgents. At the very least, Ethiopian and Somali government forces had a duty to check the areas they were targeting for civilians, especially after it became clear that civilians were dying in high numbers. A commander who knew that the assumption that all the civilians had left an area was not true but still targeted that area indiscriminately would be criminally responsible for an unlawful attack.

The first of these statements was on March 21, when Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi made a statement that the civilians in certain areas of the city should vacate them. The statement, which was read to Somali radio stations by Prime Minister Gedi’s press spokesman, said, “A statement from Somalia’s Armed Forces Command urges the people living in the areas between Jaalle Siyad College and the Pasta Factory, including the neighborhoods on both sides of the Industrial Road, to immediately vacate these aforementioned areas as soon as possible for reasons related to their safety.”224

The same day, March 21, Minister of Interior Mohamed Sheik Mohamoud Guled (also known as Gamadhere) spoke on local radio reiterating the statement by the prime minister. Excerpts from the minister’s speech included: “We urge the people who are living in the area between the Pasta Factory and Jaalle Siyad College to avoid these areas in order to deal with groups behind the disturbance who use these areas to organize attacks aimed at massacring people.”225 When the interior minister was asked about the prime minister’s statement he said, “It has been issued in order to save Somali people from those who are making trouble and his government has been patient with them [the attackers] for two months. They are the remnants of the Courts. They are bombarding every place with mortars. The security of the capital will be under control shortly and the operation will finish in favor of the government.”226 

The area between Jaalle Siyad College and the Pasta Factory runs parallel to Industrial Road, is at least 10 kilometers long, and includes some of the most populated districts in Mogadishu. While precise population figures are impossible to obtain, a conservative estimate would be in the range of tens of thousands of residents. Any expectation that a civilian population of this size could relocate with a few hours’ notice was totally unrealistic.

President Abdullahi Yusuf reiterated these positions in an interview with Voice of America on March 21. The president defended his government and the Ethiopian military’s earlier bombardment of populated neighborhoods, asserting that government forces had the right to respond with force wherever they received attacks:227

Q: The government is using artillery to shell civilian areas according to reports, therefore why are you using these artilleries?

A: Why shouldn’t we use it? They are within the civilian areas. The public should make them [the insurgents] leave the civilian areas. When those guys leave the civilian areas no harm will come to the civilians. We want the civilians to remove them [insurgents] telling them to go away from our midst. It is you [insurgents] that are causing us all these troubles. It is them [insurgents] who are the cause of all the troubles and not the government because any place from which a bullet is fired [at us] we will bombard it regardless of whoever is there.

Q: Even if civilians are there you are going to bombard it?

A: Yes we will bombard it! Because the civilians should not be used as human shields. The civilians should get out of there and we have warned the civilians. We said there is fighting going on in those neighborhoods get out of there while the fighting is going on because one of the sides will be made to give up. The civilians have that warning.228

Aside from these statements from officials on March 21, the government made no attempts to systematically inform civilians to leave specific locations, for instance by issuing repeated radio announcements (given the broad radio access in the city). No leaflets, speakers, TV, radio, newspaper, or online advertisements were used by the TFG to communicate the warnings.

In addition, there were no specific procedures or guidance for the civilians to follow when ordered to vacate their areas. There were also no provisions made to facilitate departure or relocation, particularly for the tens of thousands of destitute residents, including many internally displaced people who had been living in displaced persons camps or in abandoned buildings in Mogadishu for years.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the TFG’s warnings were totally insufficient:

One or other of the officials would make statements to the media, but there was no official campaign to warn people to leave and some of the statements came after the fact; the fighting [had] already started. It was a surprise to me to hear that such an amount of people living in a place had to leave. There are FM radio stations in Mogadishu.229

(For TFG failures adequately to protect civilians in flight from Mogadishu see Chapter VIII, “Displacement by the Fighting.”)

Looting of civilian property

TFG militia forces are widely alleged to have been responsible for most of the looting and harassment of civilians that have taken place in Mogadishu over the past six months, for instance at checkpoints and during house searches. TFG forces were also described by several witnesses as moving behind or with the Ethiopian forces during their March and April offensives, breaking into shops and extensively looting the contents.230

Items usually confiscated by TFG militias included cell phones and cash. Several sources told Human Rights Watch that in April and May two communications centers in Huriwa were repeatedly raided by the TFG militias who ordered the staff out and then stole cell phones and cash.231 The same items were targeted in stop-and-search operations, as a Huriwa resident described: “The government militias were stopping people. They would say to the person, ‘Stop to be searched, you are a suspect.’ Then they would take mobile [phones] and any money they found in pockets during the search.”232

After the second round of fighting in late April, TFG militias looted khat (a mild stimulant widely used in Somalia) from the women vendors in the Huriwa area and established checkpoints at X-Control and Towfiq to extort money from passing vehicles.233

Some residents of Mogadishu described a difference between the Ethiopian and TFG troops in the city in this respect, and attributed some of it to discipline. One resident said,

The Ethiopians had a checkpoint near my house and there were no problems for one month. When the TFG replaced the Ethiopians, there were big problems with looting; the TFG soldiers would spread out looking for something to loot. Then the Ethiopians returned and it was quiet again.234

However, in other instances, Ethiopian troops were clearly responsible for looting, for instance of materials and equipment in the hospitals they occupied (see above, “Attacks on Medical Facilities”).

A resident of Medina neighborhood described a visit by TFG troops to his home in February, during one of the house-to-house searches: “They said they were looking for weapons, but they took cell phones, clothes. We were lucky—all of them had the safety off on their guns and I was afraid my children would be killed.”235

TFG looting was also systematic in some cases. For instance on April 26, during the last day of the second round of fighting, the Ethiopian military reached an area near SOS Hospital after pushing the insurgents back. The TFG forces continued to move further into the Livestock Market neighborhood. According to eyewitnesses, they were looting the shops, the business centers, and garages, but they were not entering the houses.

Checkpoints were set up on the roads to Afgoi and on Bal’ad road where TFG forces extorted money from commuting vehicles. Some witnesses also described TFG militias harassing fleeing civilians on minibuses on the road between Mogadishu and Afgoi (see Chapter VIII, “Displacement by the Fighting”). In some cases, passengers were ordered out of the vehicles, searched, and had their personal belongings confiscated.236 TFG militias manning checkpoints within the city have also been accused of extorting money from civilian buses.237

Most recently, TFG militia were responsible for widespread looting in Bakara market during several weapons search operations in July. Two businessmen who were victims of the looting provided detailed accounts of the incidents to Human Rights Watch. 

A fruit seller told Human Rights Watch that a group of armed TFG forces were in the area searching the stores and four policemen came into his store on July 5.  “They were wearing police uniforms, [a] white uniform and blue hats [and] were carrying their AK-47 guns…They told us they were searching for weapons,” he said.  “They told me to open the qasnad [the safe]. They saw the money inside which I counted and labeled separately: $3000 and $45. They shouted at me and told me to face the wall. One of them was searching the store, the other three were guarding us. They took the money and left the store.”238

The fruit seller and another businessman told Human Rights Watch that after the looting they complained to police officers at Hawlwadag police station, who promised to investigate, but that to date nothing had been done.239 On July 8 Mogadishu’s mayor, Mohammed Dheere, apologized to the business community in Bakara Market and said, “We are going to investigate, and whoever is proved to be involved will be dealt with according to the law.”240

Obstruction of humanitarian assistance by TFG officials

As tens of thousands of civilians fled the March and April offensives, TFG officials and security forces obstructed delivery of humanitarian assistance to the displaced population. Restrictions included limiting humanitarian agency access to and use of airstrips outside Mogadishu (which were essential given the ongoing attacks on Mogadishu International Airport); blocking aid convoys; the imposition of new regulations on aid workers and relief material, including taxes; and threats to aid workers.

A report by the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on April 20 described the restrictions:

Many of the displaced have not had adequate food, water or shelter for weeks. Meanwhile, aid deliveries to south/central Somalia have been hampered by the continued insecurity, including the harassment and detention of aid workers, as well as new bureaucratic regulations imposed by the TFG and lack of access to pre-positioned stocks in Mogadishu…Thousands of people displaced in and around the Mogadishu areas are at high risk of infection. The United Nations and its partners have been working to deliver assistance to those in need, where possible.241

In an April 9, 2007 letter written by the Somali interior minister, Mohamed Mohamoud Guled, and addressed to Peter Goossens, the World Food Programme (WFP) representative for Somalia, the minister stated,

It is the TFG decision that there will be no food distribution that can take place any where in Somalia without being inspected and approved by the government. Hence UN agencies and any other organisation that is planning to bring any relief to Somalia should submit the documents for the goods before shipment for checkup.

It adds,

Any organisation that does un-authorized food and non-food items distribution will solely take the responsibility of any bad consequences from the consumption of that distribution. It is the government decision that any future items [whether be food or drug] should go under the government inspection.242

An April 12 letter addressed to Prime Minister Gedi from the acting UN humanitarian coordinator raised concerns over the TFG’s new directives and noted the “apparently systematic harassment of humanitarian workers by military forces.”243 It also described an incident in which a WFP convoy loaded with food for a distribution to more than 30,000 displaced people in Afgoi was turned back at a TFG checkpoint in early April on the grounds that “clearance had not been obtained from the TFG.”244 An April 23 letter from European Commissioner Louis Michel also condemned the “unreasonable administrative obstacles imposed by the Transitional Federal Government” and urged the TFG to allow “aid agencies to use all ports and airstrip facilities whose access is currently severely limited if not hindered.”245

International humanitarian law requires that parties to a conflict allow and facilitate impartial humanitarian relief for civilians in need. The party concerned may require consent and ensure the quality of relief goods, but it must refrain from deliberately impeding the delivery of relief supplies to populations in need.246 The TFG requirements were imposed suddenly on aid agencies in the midst of the largest displacement of civilians in many years, at a time when the TFG had neither the resources nor the administrative structures in place to appropriately inspect relief goods at the scale that was needed.

By late April the Somali government backed down on its restrictive regulations after diplomatic criticism of its stance on humanitarian assistance to the displaced population.247

Executions without due process

In January, when the TFG entered Mogadishu, it made efforts to reestablish the long defunct judicial system. Prime Minister Gedi presided over the swearing in of a number of judges to positions in the district courts (Mogadishu has 16, one for each district of the city). Currently, district and regional courts operate at a minimal level in Banadir (Mogadishu) and Baidoa, but many staff are not being paid.

Under Somali law, the legal period for detention without charge is 24 hours.  Realistically, however, the judicial process in Mogadishu faces tremendous challenges given the fact that it has not been functioning since the collapse of the Siad Barre government and Mogadishu remains extremely insecure.

While it would not be realistic to expect the current TFG to realize all due process rights of detainees in the current environment, at an absolute minimum the Somali government should ensure that detainees are not summarily executed, tortured, or otherwise mistreated, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law.  Detainees should have access to family members and impartial humanitarian agencies. Ethiopian forces should also make every effort to support efforts by the TFG to reestablish the rule of law and a functioning judiciary, and should cease mistreating detainees in those cases where Ethiopian forces are participating in arrests or detentions.

On July 5, the TFG appears to have executed two men without minimal due process. Thirty-year-old Abdullahi Dahir Muse and 25-year-old Mohammed Abdi Wardhere were arrested on June 25, apparently on suspicion of killing two government soldiers. According to Human Rights Watch research, they were detained in Baarista Hisbiga (an underground detention center near Villa Somalia) and sentenced by a military tribunal (possibly within the detention center) on July 3.248 On July 5 Abdullahi Dahir Muse and Mohammed Abdi Wardhere were shot dead by a firing squad. Human Rights Watch learned from credible sources that the two men had no access to legal counsel prior to their execution.249 The speed of the judicial procedure and the lack of due process guarantees raise serious concerns.  Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Mistreatment of detainees

Human Rights Watch is also concerned about detention practices by the TFG and Ethiopian forces. Since March TFG security forces, with Ethiopian military backing, have increasingly conducted mass arrests of people suspected of links to the insurgency and have detained many of them without any legal process.  The majority of arrests appear to involve members of the Hawiye clan, from which the insurgency derives many of its fighters. Many individuals have been beaten in custody and held at different locations in Mogadishu without access to family members. Those who get released typically do so after paying bribes to their captors. Detainees paid at least US$50 for their release, but the majority paid more than US$100.250

Mass arrests became increasingly prevalent in June and July 2007 with TFG militias and Ethiopian troops cordoning off large neighborhoods of the city, and then arresting and detaining hundreds of individuals, including children in some cases.251

According to Human Rights Watch’s research, the detainees are being held in several locations:  Baarista Hisbiga;252 Saldhigga Bari police station; Hawlwadag police station; the CID prison at K-4 junction; and a detention center inside Villa Somalia.253 Some of the prisoners initially held in these locations were later transferred to the main central prison known as Galshire, near the sea port.254

A significant number of the detainees, including individuals who were arrested as long ago as March, were held without charge. The emergency law passed on January 13, 2007 (see Chapter IV, “Mogadishu Under Siege”), does not address periods that detainees can be held without charge, although apparently police told some detainees that they could hold people indefinitely without charge during the duration of the emergency law.255 Although the emergency law was of only three months duration (and therefore due to end in April), it was July by the time the speaker of the Parliament announced its expiry.256

Human Rights Watch is concerned that detainees are being subjected to beatings, mistreatment, and possibly torture in detention. Released individuals have described serious abuses by TFG and Ethiopian security forces against detainees.

A man arrested by the Ethiopian military on March 30 told Human Rights Watch his experience.257 He was arrested, along with seven other men, while passing Florence junction at 4:30 p.m. Three Ethiopian soldiers hit him with the butt of a gun when they were ordering him to sit down. Two hours later they transferred him to TFG militias who detained him in an underground bunker used as a detention center in Villa Somalia.258 There were government troops as well as Ethiopian soldiers guarding the detainees. More than 30 prisoners were being held in the underground bunker.

TFG officials interviewed the detainees several times, he said, asking their nationality, other identifying characteristics, whether they were members of Al-Shabaab, and examining their hands and shoulders to see if there were signs of recent weapons handling. This detainee was released after 40 days in detention, without charge, but only after his family paid $50 to commanders in charge of the detention facility.259

Although this particular individual was not assaulted or mistreated in detention, he said he saw many other people who were. While detained in Villa Somalia he saw a wounded detainee of about age 20 who was regularly taken out for interrogation. He saw Somali government militias hitting him with a gun butt and kicking him in the legs.260

Another man who was arrested in a June 7 operation that detained more than 100 people was transferred to Baarista Hisbiga.261 He saw at least five other detainees there who were badly beaten, with blood covering their faces, and some had broken noses, split lips, and other injuries to the head. He saw boys as young as 16 and 17 years old among the detainees.262 

A released detainee described Baarista Hisbiga as the “worst place to be detained.”263 He added, “Some guards let a few detainees go outside to have some fresh air. Those who have influential people campaigning for their release often get this opportunity. The majority of the detainees do not get any chance to come out of these underground bunkers.”264

Some detainees are wounded individuals who were arrested while in hospital. For instance, on June 2, TFG troops arrested a patient from a Mogadishu hospital. One of the hospital staff told Human Rights Watch that the patient had been brought to the hospital on May 10 with serious shrapnel injuries to both legs, and one leg had been amputated.265

Human Rights Watch learned that this prisoner was taken to Saldhigga Bari station where he was detained for 12 days before being transferred to Baarista Hisbiga without any notification of his family.266 In Baarista Hisbiga, his leg became infected. “I did not have any treatment for eight days. It was desperately painful. I tried to crawl upstairs to ask for treatment. The guard at the stairs said I would be shot if I did not turn back. I crawled back,” he said. “Other people who were released told my relatives that I was detained [in Baarista Hisbiga]. Then I had the first contact from my family. I received a visit from a pharmacist who treated me and gave me antibiotics.”267

This man and many others were released on June 26 after a presidential amnesty. He said he and others signed a letter prior to release:

The letter said: “The President of Somalia pardons you from the crimes you have committed, and for being a collaborator and supporter of the Islamic Courts.” I hesitated about signing the letter because I don’t believe I have committed any crime. But other detainees who were signing it suggested I had no chance of getting out if I did not sign the letter.268

130 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

131 Stephanie McCrummen, “Clan Says Recent Mogadishu deaths exceed 1000,” Washington Post, April 11, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

132 The Hawiye elders claimed their estimate excluded combatants. “Somalia: Mogadishu fighting claims 293, says Hawiye clan committee,” Shabelle Media Network (Somali) reproduced in English translation by BBC Monitoring Service, April 25, 2007.

133 Human Rights Watch interview, Mogadishu, May 23, 2007.

134 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 23, 2007.

135 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 23, 2007.

136 Human Rights Watch interview with Somali journalist (name withheld), Nairobi, May 29, 2007.

137 “Mogadishu clashes ‘killed 1000,’” BBC News Online, April 10, 2007, (accessed July 11, 2007).

138 Human Rights Watch interview with medical officer (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 23, 2007.

139 “Somalia: Thousands of civilians trapped in deadly fighting in Mogadishu,” ICRC press release, March 30, 2007,; Mohammed Olad Hassan, “Red Cross: fighting in Somalia’s capital is the worst in more than 15 years,” Associated Press, March 31, 2007, reproduced at (accessed July 12, 2007).

140 Human Rights Watch interview with medical officer (name withheld), Nairobi, April 23, 2007.

141 Residents of Mogadishu call mortars “hoobiye.”

142 There is video and photographic evidence of the weaponry used by the insurgency. See “Violent Fighting between Ethiopian and Somali Forces” (Violents combats entre les forces éthiopiennes et somaliennes), Reuters video report, reproduced in Le Monde vidéo, April 26, 2007,,47-0@2-3212,54-902107@51-754471,0.html. See also Reuters photos on file with Human Rights Watch.

143 Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1676 (2006), United Nations Security Council (S/2006/913), pp. 11- 17.   

144 Ibid., p. 9.

145 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nairobi, April and May, 2007.

146 Arms sales in Mogadishu’s Bakara market declined considerably after the ICU took control and imposed regulations on the weapons market in late 2006. However, sales swiftly resumed after the ICU was ousted. United Nations Security Council, Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1676 (S/2006/913), November 22, 2006, pp. 29-30; and Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1676 (S/2007/436), July 18, 2007, p. 18. 

147 Residents of Mogadishu called the latter M-30 and D-30, and referred to BM-21 multiple-rocket-launchers as “BM.”

148 Media reports on the type of weapon used to shoot down the helicopter varied from rocket-propelled grenades to anti-aircraft missiles. See Alisha Ryu, “Helicopter Shot Down in Somalia,” VOA News, March 30, 2007, (accessed July 12, 2007).

149 Human Rights Watch interviews in Nairobi, Galkayo, Bosaso, and Mogadishu, April-May 2007.

150 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 21, 2007.

151 Human Rights Watch interviews with eyewitnesses in Galkayo and Mogadishu, May 2007.

152 Human Rights Watch interview with displaced person from Mogadishu (name withheld), Galkayo, May 2, 2007.

153 Human Rights Watch interview with displaced person from Mogadishu, (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

154 Mohamed Olad Hassan, “4 Civilians Killed by Mortars in Somalia,” Associated Press, February 15, 2007.

155 Mohamed Olad Hassan, “At least 10 civilians killed in ambush on peacekeepers in Somalia,” Associated Press, March 8, 2007.

156 Mohamed Olad Hassan, “2 killed in Mortar Attack in Somalia,” Associated Press, March 18, 2007.

157 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Hargeysa, May 10, 2007.

158 Human Rights Watch interview with a 67-year-old resident of Waberi district, Bosaso, May 7, 2007.

159 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, April, 27, 2007.

160 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

161 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

162 Human Rights Watch interview with displaced woman (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

163 “Somalia: Mogadishu residents set up vigilante groups to counter insurgents,” Radio HornAfrik (Somali) reproduced in English translation by BBC Monitoring Service, February 21, 2007.

164 Photograph on file with Human Rights Watch.

165 Abdirahman Mohamed Hassan, “District Commissioner for Yaqshid and Deputy District Commissioner for Wadajir killed in Mogadishu tonight in separate circumstances” (Gudoomiyihii Degmada Yaaqshiid iyo Kuxigeenkii Degmada Wadajir oo caawa Siyaabo kala duwan Magaalada Muqdisho loogu dilay), Somaliweyn Media Center, February 21, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

166 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Galkayo, May 1, 2007.

167 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, April 27, 2007.

168 Protocol II, art. 11.

169 Although this report focuses on the events in Mogadishu between January and June 2007, these accounts of attacks on medical facilities are not the only indications that Ethiopian forces have deliberately interfered with the functioning of hospitals. During the December 2006 offensive against the ICU, Ethiopian forces entered a hospital in Dinsor, southern Somalia, confiscated confidential medical files and threatened staff. See “After a week of intense fighting in Somalia, MSF is extremely concerned about the security of medical staff and safety of patients,” MSF news release, December 28, 2006, (accessed August 2, 2007).

170 Yaasiin Maxamed Ali, “Ethiopian and Somali troops undertake disarmament operations in Mogadishu as they confiscate weapons from Al-Arafat Hospital” (Hawlo hub ururin ah oo ay ciidamada dawladda iyo kuwa Itoobiya ka wadaan caasimadda iyadoo saaka hubkii cisbitaal Carafaat ay la wareegeen),, January 14, 2007, (accessed July 16, 2007). 

171 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, pp. 85-86.

172 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), May 22, 2007.

173 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location withheld), May 22, 2007.

174 Human Rights Watch interviews (names and locations withheld), May 22, 2007.

175 Human Rights Watch interviews (names and locations withheld), May 22, 2007. See also Abdifitahaam Ahmed, “Clashes overnight in Mogadishu caused heavy losses” (Dagaalkii xalay Muqdishu ka dhacay oo khasaare xooggan gaystay), Simba Radio, April 18, 2007, (accessed July 17).

176 Ibid.

177 Ibid.

178 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

179 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

180 See, for example, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002, art. 8(2)(e)(ii).

181 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

182 Human Rights Watch interview with Al-Hayat staff, Nairobi and Mogadishu, May 4 and 22, 2007.

183 Human Rights Watch interview with Al-Hayat staff, Nairobi and Mogadishu, May 4 and 22, 2007.

184 Human Rights Watch interview with Al-Hayat staff member, Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

185 Human Rights Watch interview with Al-Hayat staff member, Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

186 Document on file with Human Rights Watch.

187 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 28 (“Medical units exclusively assigned to medical purposes must be respected and protected in all circumstances”); ibid., p. 96.

188 “Missile hits pediatric hospital in Mogadishu,” International Herald Tribune, April 24, 2007, (accessed July 12, 2007).

189 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, May 3, 2007, and telephone interview with SOS staff member (name withheld), Nairobi, July 18, 2007.

190 Human Rights Watch interview with journalist (name withheld), Nairobi, May 3, 2007.

191 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with SOS staff member (name withheld), Nairobi, July 18, 2007.

192 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with SOS staff member (name withheld), Nairobi, July 18, 2007.

193 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with SOS staff member (name withheld), Nairobi, July 18, 2007.

194 Human Rights Watch interview with 45-year-old charcoal porter with gunshot wound, Mogadishu, May 22, 2007.

195 Human Rights Watch interview with wounded businessman (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 21, 2007.

196 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and other details withheld), Mogadishu, June 20, 2007.

197 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and other details withheld), Mogadishu, June 20, 2007.

198 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and other details withheld), Mogadishu, June 20, 2007.

199 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews (names and other details withheld), July 2007.

200 “Colonel Mohamed Ali Khalaf is killed in Mogadishu” (Col. Maxamed Cali Khalaf oo lagu dilay Muqdisho), Somali Radio, February 3, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

201 Abdirahman Mohamed Hassan, “District Commissioner for Yaqshid and Deputy District Commissioner for Wadajir killed in Mogadishu tonight in separate circumstances” (Gudoomiyihii Degmada Yaaqshiid iyo Kuxigeenkii Degmada Wadajir oo caawa Siyaabo kala duwan Magaalada Muqdisho loogu dilay), Somaliweyn Media Center, February 21, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

202 Ibid.

203 Mohamed Ibrahim Moallimu and Yusuf Hassan Mursal, “Fighting Flares in Mogadishu” (Dagaal ka dhacay Muqdishu), BBC Somali Service, March 13, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

204 District Commissioner for Huriwa shot dead” (Gudoomiyihii degmada Huriwaa oo toogasho lagu diley), Marka Cadeey, May 14, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

205 “Funeral for slain District Commissioner for Hawlwadag as Banadir administration speaks out” (Gudoomiyihii degmada Hawladaag oo la aasey iyo maamulka gobolka Banaadir oo ka Hadley dilkaasi), Marka Cadeey, June 2, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

206 District Commissioner for Shibis is shot this morning” (Gudoomiyihii degmada Shibis oo saakay la toogtey), Marka Cadeey, June 14, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

207 Mohamed Abdi Farah, “Somalia: Deputy DC slain in Mogadishu,” SomaliNet, July 2, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

208 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Afgoi, July 30, 2007.

209 A curfew was imposed following the attack. “Curfew took effect in Afgoi district overnight” (Bandoow xalay ka dhaqan galay degmada Afgooye), Shabelle Media Network, July 16, 2007, (accessed July 30, 2007).

210 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, July 31, 2007.

211 Article 3 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (First Geneva Convention), 75 U.N.T.S. 31, entered into force October 21, 1950; Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (Second Geneva Convention), 75 U.N.T.S. 85, entered into force October 21, 1950; Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Third Geneva Convention), 75 U.N.T.S. 135, entered into force October 21, 1950; Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention), 75 U.N.T.S. 287, entered into force October 21, 1950; see also Protocol II, art. 4(2)(a), and the Rome Statute, art. 8(2)(c).

212 Common Article 3 and Protocol II, art. 4(2)(a); see also the Rome Statute, art. 8(2)(c)(ii) on “committing outrages upon personal dignity.” According to the Elements of Crimes for the ICC, this provision applies to dead persons. See commentary to Rule 90 of the Elements of Crimes.

213 “Interview with President Abdullahi Yusuf,” VOA Somali service, March 21, 2007. Audio recording on file with Human Rights Watch.

214 Press accounts of the total number of casualties differed. Most stated that a total of 13 or 14 people were killed, including either six or seven combatants, and that several of the dead fighters were alleged to be Ethiopian soldiers, but this remains unclear. See Mustafa Haji Abdinur, “Angry residents burn bodies in Mogadishu mayhem,” Agence France-Presse, March 21, 2007, reproduced at (accessed July 9, 2007).

215 Human Rights Watch interviews with journalist and woman observer, Nairobi, April 27 and May 29, 2007.  

216 Jeffrey Gettleman, “Again, bodies are mutilated in Mogadishu’s streets,” International Herald Tribune, March 21, 2007, (accessed July 9, 2007).

217 Aweys Osman Yusuf, “More than 10 die as heavy fighting continues in Mogadishu,” Shabelle Media Network, March 21, 2007, (accessed July 9, 2007); Mohammed Olad Hassan, “Bodies of Somali soldiers burned in streets by Islamists.”

218 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, May 29, 2007.

219 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, May 29, 2007. The witness could not remember the exact date, but other accounts indicated that it was March 21.

220 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, April 27, 2007.

221 Ali Musa Abdi, “Somali Clan Releases Prisoners in Peace Gesture,” Agence France-Presse, March 26, 2007, reproduced at (accessed August 1, 2007).

222 Human Rights Watch interviews (names and other details withheld), Nairobi and Mogadishu, April–May 2007.

223 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 20.

224 “Gedi orders vacating neighborhoods” (Geedi oo amray in laga guuro xaafado),, March 21, 2007, (accessed April 19, 2007).  A copy of the statement is on file with Human Rights Watch.

225 “Press conference by Interior Minister,” Simba Radio, March 21, 2007. Audio recording on file with Human Rights Watch.

226 Ibid.

227 “Interview with President Abdullahi Yusuf,” VOA Somali Service, March 21, 2007. Audio recording on file with Human Rights Watch.

228 Ibid.

229 Human Rights Watch interview with a local health worker, Mogadishu, May 23, 2007.

230 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 24, 2007.

231 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Mogadishu, June 22, 2007.

232 Human Rights Watch interview with Huriwa resident (name withheld), May 24, 2007.

233 Human Rights Watch interview with Huriwa resident, (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 24, 2007.

234 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, April 23, 2007.

235 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nairobi, April 23, 2007.

236 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, May 21, 2007.

237 “Somalia: Government soldiers take extortion money from bus drivers,” Shabelle Media Network, July 10, 2007, (accessed July 10, 2007).

238 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with 40-year-old Bakara market businessman (name withheld), Mogadishu, July 20, 2007.

239 Ibid.

240 “Mohamed Dheere apologizes over traders’ complaints about robbery by government forces” (Maxamed Dheere oo raali gelin ka bixiyay ganacsato ka cabaneysay in ciidamada dowlada dhac u geysteen), Marka Cadeey, July 8, 2007, (accessed July 20, 2007).

241 “UN and NGO partners need better access to displaced Somalis,” OCHA press release, April 20, 2007, (accessed July 11, 2007).

242 Reference letter WAG/150/07 by Minister for Interior, Mohamed Mohamoud Guled, April 9, 2007.

243 Letter from Graham Farmer, Acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, to Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, April 12, 2007. A copy of the letter is on file with Human Rights Watch.

244 Ibid.

245 Letter from Louis Michel to President Abdullahi Yusuf, April 23, 2007. A copy of the letter is on file with Human Rights Watch.

246 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 55, citing Protocol II, art. 18(2).

247 “Somali aid ‘not reaching needy,’” BBC News Online, May 14, 2007, (accessed July 10, 2007).

248 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Mogadishu, July 19, 2007.

249 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews, Mogadishu, July 9, 2007.

250 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews (names withheld), Mogadishu, June 15–22, 2007.

251 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews (names withheld), Mogadishu, June 15–22, 2007.

252 Baarista Hisbiga is a three-story building originally built for the former Somali Revolutionary and Socialism Party (SRSP) of Siad Barre. It contains an underground detention bunker which the Barre government used to detain political dissidents. It reportedly has seven to ten large rooms which can accommodate up to 200 people. The center is currently believed to be controlled by the National Security Agency. 

253 The detention center in Villa Somalia is apparently a single large underground hall. It is believed that the most valuable detainees are detained here. Human Rights Watch telephone interviews, Mogadishu, June and July 2007.

254 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with released detainees, Mogadishu, June 15-22, 2007.

255 Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Mogadishu, May 24, 2007.

256 “Parliament Speaker: Martial Law Over,”

257 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with released detainee (name withheld), Mogadishu, June 20, 2007.

258 The single bunker had four small air holes in the roof but no windows or lights. According to the witness, Ethiopian soldiers sometimes talked to the prisoners through these holes, saying “Hey al Qaeda” or “Hey Al-Shaabab.” Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and location withheld), June 20, 2007.

259 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and location withheld), June 20, 2007.  

260 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and location withheld), June 20, 2007.  

261 According to eyewitness accounts, each room in Baarista Hisbiga is about 6x6 meters and can take up to 30 detainees. It has no running water, no fresh air, no windows, and is hot, humid and overcrowded. Human Rights Watch telephone interviews (names withheld), Mogadishu, June 15, 2007.

262 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, June 15, 2007.

263 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, June 15, 2007.

264 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a released detainee (name withheld), Mogadishu, June 15, 2007.

265 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name and location withheld), June 25, 2007.

266 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a relative (name withheld), Mogadishu, June 23, 2007.

267 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, July 30, 2007.

268 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (name withheld), Mogadishu, July 30, 2007.