Populations at Risk
Populations in Somalia remain at risk of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Al-Shabaab and various armed forces.
Despite the 2012 formation of the Federal Government of Somalia, populations remain at risk of atrocities perpetrated by armed extremist groups and the forces combatting them. On 10 December the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) committed in Somalia from January 2016 until October 2017. According to the report, at least 2,078 civilians were killed, including 1,233 fatalities attributed to Al-Shabaab and 329 caused by Somali security forces and troops from the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Over 2 million people still live in Al-Shabaab controlled territory, mainly in the rural areas of Hirshabelle, Jubaland and South West Somalia. Al-Shabaab fighters routinely violate IHL and IHRL, including by torturing detainees, attacking hospitals and schools, targeting civilians, and using civilians as human shields. The group actively recruits child soldiers, who comprise more than half of their forces. Al-Shabaab has also blocked civilians from access to vital humanitarian assistance and continues to target AMISOM and humanitarian convoys for attack. On 30 July more than 20 AMISOM troops were killed in an Al-Shabaab ambush in Lower Shabelle.
In addition to the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has a growing presence in Somalia. Territorial disputes between communities in the border regions of Galmudug, Puntland and Somaliland also pose a risk to vulnerable civilians.
Some Somali National Army and AMISOM forces tasked with providing civilian protection have at times posed a direct threat to civilians, committing rape, arbitrary detention and other grave violations of human rights.
After decades of armed conflict, an estimated 2.1 million Somalis are still internally displaced while over 875,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Over 6.2 million Somalis require humanitarian assistance, while the threat of famine persists in several regions.
Despite political advances, the Federal Government of Somalia currently lacks the capacity to adequately protect civilians from the predations of various armed groups. While the AU has trained AMISOM forces to respect IHL and IHRL and advised on methods to reduce civilian harm, large-scale military offensives against Al-Shabaab still pose a threat to vulnerable populations. Despite challenges, AMISOM remains the main source of safety and security in Somalia.
The Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM have a Responsibility to Protect civilians from war crimes and crimes against humanity as they battle against Al-Shabaab and other armed extremist groups.
On 30 August the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 2372, which recalled the Federal Government of Somalia's responsibility to protect its population and to build its national security forces in full compliance with IHL and IHRL. Resolution 2372 also renewed AMISOM's mandate until 31 May 2018 and lowered AMISOM's troop ceiling to 21,626. AMISOM is expected to fully withdraw from Somalia by 2020.
On 14 November the UNSC passed Resolution 2385 renewing the partial arms embargo for Somalia until 15 November 2018, while noting that the government of Somalia has the primary responsibility to protect its population and must improve the capacity of the national security forces.
Working with the Somali government, the United States conducted over 30 airstrikes against Al-Shabaab and ISIL in Somalia during 2017.
International partners should continue to support efforts aimed at defeating Al-Shabaab and enhancing national governance, as well as protecting and promoting human rights in Somalia.
The Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and allied forces, including the United States, must ensure that their military campaigns against Al-Shabaab are carried out in strict adherence with IHL and IHRL. A coordinated political strategy aimed at countering violent extremism should also be implemented in order to prevent recruitment to Al-Shabaab and other armed groups.
All alleged war crimes in Somalia must be properly investigated and the perpetrators held accountable, regardless of rank or affiliation.
Last Updated: 15 January 2018