UN envoy says Somali war crime suspects should face ICC

November 13, 2007
NAIROBI (AFP) - A United Nations envoy on Tuesday said Somali war crimes suspects should be prosecuted at the international Criminal Court in order to end impunity in the lawless African nation.

"People perpetuating crimes and violence are not being challenged before the International Criminal Court," said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN secretary general's special envoy to Somalia.

"I think the time has come to see what international justice can do to help Somalis," he told a press conference in Nairobi, where he became the first top UN envoy to make such a call for trials before the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Ould-Abdallah said investigations in Somalia should really go back to 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted, touching off power struggles that have defied numerous attempts to restore stability, but the ICC can only take up cases since it started work in July 2002.

"I believe in justice (in order to avoid) to avoid impunity," said the envoy, three days after after holding talks with President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

The call comes amid fresh bout of clashes between Ethiopian-backed Somali forces and Islamists in Mogadishu that have claimed dozens of lives and displacing at least 170,000 others.

"Somalis deserve a minimum of justice," he said. "So, may be now, no investigation is being done but one day this investigation may be done as it has been in other conflicts," he said.

"Why can't Somalis make an internal effort to be like Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone (countries that have emerged from conflict). Where are the patriotic Somalis to ask why can't we have peace like Angola, Mozambique?" said Ould-Abdallah.

In April, a European Union envoy asked Brussels to investigate whether Ethiopian and Somali forces committed war crimes in their recent crackdown on Islamist and clan insurgents in Mogadishu.

The EU envoy in Kenya, Eric van der Linden, urged his EU headquarters in Brussels to see whether "indiscriminate use of force in heavily populated areas amounted to war crimes".

The envoy was referring to an April assault in which Ethiopian soldiers wrestled final control of the Somali capital from the Islamist militants after a bloody campaign that claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.

The Hague-based ICC on Tuesday announced a trial date for May next year for one of two warlords from the Democratic Republic of Congo currently detained in the city and has also indicted five Ugandan rebel commanders for war crimes.

Ethiopia sent thousands of troops into Somalia last year to help its government topple an Islamist movement that briefly controlled much of the country and is accused by Washington of links to Al-Qaeda.

Since then, hit-and-run attacks by remnant Islamist fighters have shaken Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective government for the past 16 years.

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