- Amnesty International has today called for urgent safeguards to be applied to any arms transfers to Somalia, in the wake of a reported US government decision to double its arms transfers to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
On 6 August, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed US military support to the Somali transitional government, with some 40 tons of weapons and ammunition already said to have been send to Somalia.
“Amnesty International urged the USA and any other state providing or financing arms or training for the military and security forces of the TFG to institute effective mechanisms to prevent such arms and training from being used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” the group said in a statement.
Amnesty also said that these safeguards must cover all military, policing and security equipment and training provided to the TFG, as well as funding for arms acquisition or training, further adding that the international community should assist the TFG in establishing such safeguards urgently.
The group also stated that since the 7 May 2009 start of a military offensive by armed groups opposed to the TFG in south and central Somalia, reports of indiscriminate shelling in civilian-populated areas, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and thousands of injuries, by all parties to the conflict, have increased. This latest fighting has displaced some 232,000 residents from the capital, Mogadishu alone, according to the United Nations.
Amnesty International also called for the implementation of the UN arms embargo on Somalia, in existence since 1992, to be urgently strengthened, and for states to take additional measures to ensure its effectiveness.
The group said that current arms embargo provides for exemptions to be applied in support of the TFG security sector. However, while a system is in place for exemption requests to be sent to the Somalia Sanctions Committee overseeing the embargo and sanctions regime, said Amnesty International, no effective mechanism is in place to ensure that transfers of weapons, funding and other materiel transferred will not be used to commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, or that they will not be received by those who have been responsible for past abuses, or that they will not end up in Somalia’s thriving arms markets or in the hands of armed groups opposed to the TFG.
It further noted that according to the last report of the UN Monitoring Group, “as much as 80 percent of the international investment in building the Transitional Federal Government security forces has been diverted to purposes other than those for which it was intended.”
“It is therefore essential that all states and the UN Security Council put in place effective mechanisms to control the delivery and use of weapons and other security equipment supplied to Somalia under the arms embargo exemption regime,” urged Amnesty, further saying states must not supply equipment if there is a substantial risk that it could be used in committing serious violations of international law, such as the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian-populated areas.
In addition, called on states to ensure that the recruitment, training and deployment of all pro-TFG armed entities includes effective vetting, accountability, transparency and oversight mechanisms, with international participation. “No personnel from any Somali security forces has yet been properly vetted, and some of those currently active or being considered for service could be responsible for human rights abuses that have characterised the conflict in Somalia over the years,”the group said.
Somalia has been mired in armed conflict since the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991. The conflict has displaced one million people from Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008. Today, more than 500,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries, some 1.3 million persons are internally displaced within Somalia and some 3.2 million are dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival.
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