Somalia: Increased wave of attacks and violence put three million Somalis at risk of malnutrition and disease

The deaths of at least 40 humanitarian or human rights workers this year alone, and the ever growing threat of attack by armed groups and militias, is putting at least three million Somalis at even greater risk of malnutrition and disease, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

Targeted violence against humanitarian workers, peace activists and human rights defenders in Somalia has forced many organisations to suspend programmes and withdraw staff.

This is at a time when Somalia is in the middle of a humanitarian emergency, with the United Nations estimating that around 3.25 million Somalis – 43 per cent of the population – will require food aid until the end of 2008.

Amnesty International’s report, entitled ‘Fatal insecurity: attacks on aid workers and rights defenders in Somalia’ also highlights that the attacks have been motivated by a number of reasons, including an incorrect but widespread assumption in Somalia that humanitarian agencies are spies for western governments.

Amnesty International’s Somalia Campaigner, David Copeman said:

“These killings, abductions and threats mean that workers and rights defenders no longer enjoy the limited protection they previously held, based on their status in the community as impartial distributors of food and emergency services, or as advocates of peace and human rights.

Attacks continue, with UN staff killed by bombing attacks on 29 October, the targeted killing of a UNICEF engineer in the central town of Hudur on 19 October and a Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights activist killed in Guriel on 25 October.

When the identity of the attackers is known, the majority of killings have been attributed to members of armed opposition groups, including al-Shabab militias, and the various Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS)-affiliated militias (often also called Islamic Courts).

The remaining killings were attributed to criminal gangs, or in a smaller number of cases, to militias associated with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) or to the Ethiopian military.

Amnesty International has reported that recently, attacks have been carried out by one or more gunmen, who are almost always described as between 15 and 25 years old. Threats are issued by phone, in leaflets and by word of mouth.

Amnesty International calls on all parties to the conflict in Somalia to stop these illegal attacks on humanitarian workers and civil society.

David Copeman continued:

“International leaders must establish a mechanism, such as an International Commission of Inquiry, to investigate these killings, kidnappings and beatings and bring those responsible to justice.”

“Donor governments and the UN must also increase their efforts to ensure a transparent and clearly demonstrated distinction between apolitical emergency humanitarian relief, and any political or development activities assisting TFG or the peace process.”

On Tuesday 11 November, Amnesty International will host a panel discussion with a rights defender visiting from the UK - Zam Zam Abdullahi Abdi – a counsellor for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights affected by violence in Somalia. Zam Zam will be available for interview on 6 and on 11 November.

  • read the report
  • find out more about the event on 11 November /li>

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