Populations at Risk
Previously Studied Situations
There is a serious risk of war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by militias and various other armed forces operating in Somalia.
BACKGROUND: After more than 20 years of conflict, recurring famine and the collapse of the Somali state, the recent positive developments in the state building process provide an opportunity for Somalis to continue rebuilding their country. However, ongoing armed conflict between Al-Shabaab, an extremist Islamist armed group affiliated with al-Qaeda that has killed more than 6,200 people since 2008, and a range of domestic and international forces continue to pose a threat to civilians.
The conflict in Somalia has been characterized by the reckless disregard by all sides for the safety and security of the civilian population. Those currently fighting Al-Shabaab include the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali Armed Forces (SAF).
In addition to the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, territorial disputes continue to displace civilians in the border regions of Galmudug, Puntland and Somaliland states. Most recently in October 2016, over 50,000 civilians fled fighting around the city of Galkayo. According to the International Organization for Migration there are nearly 1.1 million internally displaced peoples in Somalia.
The threat of attacks by Al-Shabaab has taken a toll on Somalia's electoral process. The first elections since 1991 were held in 2012 where 135 chiefs chose a one-house parliament, with hopes of achieving a "one-person one-vote" or universal suffrage election in 2016. Due to continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab, safety could not be guaranteed for civilians partaking in the election. As a result, universal suffrage elections have been postponed until 2020.
As a result of the impossibility of a "one-person one-vote" election, a complex system designed to be significantly more inclusive elections than the 2012 process was undertaken. Despite being delayed multiple times, over 14,205 clan elders and the "electoral college" cast votes toward electing 275 Members of Parliament to serve in the Lower House while state assemblies voted for the 45 members of Upper House. On 8 February 2017 Abdullahi Mohammed Farmaajo was elected president.
ANALYSIS: It is crucial that the international community views the situation in Somalia through the lens of the Responsibility to Protect and not just as an exercise in state building, an opportunity to fight piracy or another battleground of the "war on terror." Parties on all sides of the conflict have previously been responsible for mass atrocity crimes and have indiscriminately used mortar, rocket and artillery fire in civilian areas. In areas controlled by Al-Shabaab the denial of aid to people facing famine may also constitute crimes against humanity.
The fledgling state building process in Somalia lacks the capacity to adequately protect civilians. While the AU has trained AMISOM forces to respect IHL and advised on methods to reduce harm to civilians, large-scale assaults on Al-Shabaab still pose a direct threat to the civilian population. Clashes among rival clans vying for control of territory in Galmudug, Puntland and Somaliland may result in further civilian casualties if a sustainable peace is not reached.
All parties to the conflict in Somalia, including those who have intervened to end the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, have a Responsibility to Protect civilians from war crimes and crimes against humanity.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: AMISOM, which was established by the AU during 2007, currently operates with 22,126 troops and police throughout the country. On 7 July 2016 the UNSC passed Resolution 2297, renewing the mandate for AMISOM until 31 May 2017 which recalled the Federal Government of Somalia's responsibility to protect its population and to build its national security forces with within full compliance of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
In January 2016 the European Union announced a decrease in AMISOM troop salaries by 20% causing a crisis amongst troop contributors. On 27 January the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael Keating briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) and warned that if funding issues are not resolved a decrease in troop numbers would lead to an increase in attacks by Al-Shabaab.
NECESSARY ACTION: AMISOM, together with the SAF and Somali Police Forces must ensure that their campaigns against Al-Shabaab are carried out in accordance with IHL. Proper training in the assessment of atrocity risks for the SAF and Somali Police is essential to preventing further atrocities. Allegations of mass atrocity crimes committed since 2007 must be investigated and perpetrators held accountable.
The FGS needs ongoing international assistance to complete reach the goal of universal suffrage elections in 2020.
Last Updated: 8 February 2017