By Andrew Wasike
Human Rights Watch is calling on the African Union force in Somalia to hold its troops responsible for an incident last year which left 14 civilians in a southern village dead.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) should release the results of its investigation into the killing last July, said the Human Rights Watch (HRW) regional office in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in a statement late Wednesday.
In the incident, the African peacekeeping soldiers opened fire at a gathering at Wardinle in Somalia’s Bay region of people praying for a sick villager, killing 14 civilians, among them relatives of the sick villager and Islamic school teachers.
“The killing of elders, teachers, and religious leaders devastated the poor rural community of Wardinle and should not be swept under the carpet,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader said in the statement.
She added, “The African Union and Ethiopian leadership needs to hold its forces to account by releasing its findings, ensuring that any wrongdoers are brought to justice, and compensating the victims.”
HRW said that after the incident, triggered by a tip that al-Shabaab militants were carrying out radicalization exercises in the village, AMISOM told a UN Security Council monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea that the villagers were killed in “crossfire” between soldiers and the alleged militants.
HRW said the soldiers involved had flouted international humanitarian law and called on the government of Ethiopia to prosecute those responsible.
HRW urged the UN Security Council, which meets on Friday to discuss the situation in Somalia, and international donors to AMISOM to place greater emphasis on ensuring that AMISOM forces comply with human rights standards and abide by their obligations under international law.
AMISOM officials could not be reached for comment early Wednesday.