Executions, Indiscriminate Attacks and Denial of Food, Water and Medical Care are Outlined in New Report
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]
(New York) — The scale of war crimes affecting Somali children, including the systematic recruitment of child soldiers under 15 by armed Islamist groups, is exposed in a new report released today by Amnesty International, which said children are experiencing "unimagineable horrors on a daily basis."
"In the Line of Fire: Somalia's Children Under Attack" reveals the full impact on children of the on-going armed conflict. Children in Somalia are being recruited as child soldiers and killed or injured in indiscriminate attacks carried out in densely populated areas.
Children are not spared the floggings, amputations and executions that have become a regular occurrence in the al-Shabab-controlled areas of Somalia. According to the World Health Organization, children in Mogadishu accounted for almost one-fifth of all weapons-related casualties in 2010.
In addition, without a functioning government in Somalia for 20 years, public services, the rule of law and respect for human rights are undermined while access is blocked to food and water, medical care and education.
"Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children's crisis," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa.
"As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabab because you are caught listening to music or 'wearing the wrong clothes', be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don't have access to adequate medical care."
"The humanitarian crisis facing children in Somalia is also the result of al-Shabab denying access to aid in the last couple of years."
The report presents more than 200 testimonies from Somali refugees, children and adults, in Kenya and Djibouti. Many cite the recruitment of children by armed groups as one of the reasons for fleeing southern and central Somalia.
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government is on the United Nations " list of shame" as a party recruiting, using, killing and maiming children in armed conflict. It has made a commitment to respect children's rights but has yet to adopt any concrete measures to end the use of children by forces fighting on its side.
Education has suffered in Somalia because school buildings have been destroyed or damaged during indiscriminate attacks in urban areas. In Mogadishu, many schools have closed down as children and teachers fear being killed and injured on their way to school.
Al-Shabab, the main armed group opposed to the government, has imposed severe restrictions on the right to education, preventing some girls from attending school, banning certain subjects from being taught, or using schools to indoctrinate children into participating in fighting.
Al-Shabab is also using increasingly threatening recruitment methods, luring children with the promise of phones and money or conducting raids on schools or abductions in public areas.
Some children interviewed by Amnesty International witnessed teachers being killed during attacks on schools and reported that some girls were even forced into marriages with fighters.
A 13 year old girl from Mogadishu told Amnesty International:
"Al-Shabab came in one morning… They said to the teachers that all of the children should move out of class. There was a car waiting outside and they forced the children in. One teacher was killed because he refused to obey. He was brave, he was the one who was standing up for the rights of the girls."
Children have been victims of floggings and witnessed other horrific human rights abuses, including stonings, amputations and killings carried out in public by armed Islamist groups. Children have also seen relatives and friends killed or tortured.
There is a high level of trauma among Somali refugees, including children, as a result of the human rights abuses they experienced or witnessed during the conflict.
The international community must expand specific protection measures for the rising number of Somali children separated from their families, and increase support and education programs for Somali children.
"This is a never-ending conflict, where children are experiencing unimaginable horrors on a daily basis," said Kagari. "They risk becoming a lost generation if the world continues to ignore the war crimes affecting so many of them."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
To receive the report on Somalia's children, please contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]