Human Rights Watch urges AU summit to focus on justice in Somalia, Chad

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- The African Union should urge the United Nations Securit y Council to set up a commission of inquiry to document the worst human rights a b uses in Somalia, an essential first step in creating justice and accountability, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
In a letter sent in advance to the AU Summit meeting in Sirte, Libya on 1-3 July , the New York-based organisation urged AU leaders to call for an end to the entrenched and unchecked violence in Somalia, where it said human rights abuses continue to ravage the country.
The group also said that the AU should ensure that its mission in Somalia (AMISO M) adheres scrupulously to international humanitarian law.
The small and beleaguered peacekeeping force has kept Mogadishu’s port open for vital humanitarian supplies, but has been implicated in firing indiscriminately at civilians.
“The Somalia peacekeeping mission is the AU’s toughest and most dangerous undert aking in Africa today,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW.
“The AU should ensure that its troops are not drawn into the abuse that surrounds them and that personnel guilty of serious abuses are held to account.
” HRW also called on the AU to encourage Senegal to move proceedings forward in th e case of the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré, who stands accused of crimes against humanity.
In July 2006, the AU mandated Senegal to prosecute Habré and made a commitment t o provide financial support for the effective conduct of the trial.
Three years later, despite offers of assistance to Senegal from outside Africa, it has failed even to begin proceedings, and the AU has provided no concrete assistance, the group said.
It said if the AU acts effectively to move the Habré case forward, it would demo nstrate Africa’s capacity and will to deal speedily with atrocities committed on the continent.
In addition, HRW called on the AU to support the work of the International Crimi nal Court (ICC).
Earlier this year, the arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur led some in Africa to label the court as “anti-African,” and to accuse it of unfairly targeting Africans.
Three of the four African situations being investigated by the ICC, however, wer e voluntarily referred by the countries where the crimes were committed, and the fourth, Darfur, was referred to the court by the UN Security Council.
HRW urged AU members to solidify their commitment to the ICC and to preserve its strength and integrity.
It recommended that the AU support the establishment of an ICC liaison office in Addis Ababa, the home o f the AU, to strengthen institutional contact and negotiate a cooperation framework between the two institutions.
“Across Africa, governments and civil society organizations have endorsed the wo rk of the ICC,” said Gagnon.
“Building on this month’s meeting in Addis Ababa, we look to African leaders to deepen the AU’s commitment to supporting mechanisms, such as the ICC, that provide justice to African victims of the most serious human rights abuses.

26 june 2009 13:20:00

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