Saturday, September 27, 2014

HRW responds to criticism of its report on AMISOM peacekeeper discipline

Human Rights Watch has released a point-by-point rebuttal of criticisms leveled at its recent report on peacekeeper indiscipline in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). For example:
8. Are the AU and AMISOM already providing training and awareness-raising on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse? 
The Human Rights Watch report includes steps taken by the AU and AMISOM over the last year aimed at establishing institutional policies and structures to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse. Human Rights Watch also assessed how troop-contributing countries have to varying degrees deployed legal officers, military investigators, and intelligence officers to Somalia to investigate misconduct by their troops as well as conducting pre-deployment training.
However, Human Rights Watch concluded that troop-contributing countries have not sufficiently used the investigative and legal resources at their disposal to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse. Legal advisers deployed to Somalia told Human Rights Watch that they had not participated in any boards of inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuses. It appears that very few cases involving Somali victims were heard by Uganda’s divisional court martial when it was posted to Mogadishu for a year and Human Rights Watch identified only one case of rape, of a child, pending before a military court in Uganda.
In addition, as the then-Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, acknowledged in his response to Human Rights Watch’s queries, AMISOM has not developed appropriate investigative capacity and complaints mechanisms. Human Rights Watch found that the one board of inquiry at the AMISOM headquarters level established following allegations of gang-rape by Ugandan soldiers in Mogadishu in August 2013 was clearly inadequate.
There is a need for the AU, AMISOM, and the troop-contributing countries to reinforce steps to prevent sexual abuse, for example by ensuring further training, review, and endorsement of AMISOM’s draft policy on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse and helping to create an environment that is conducive for women and girls to report abuses. The AU and AMISOM should also make new responses to the problem a priority, notably the development of an investigative unit at the AU level.
No matter what happens at a policy level, it is evident that troop-contributing countries should hold courts martial in Somalia to facilitate the participation of local victims and witnesses at trial and show all Somalis that there is justice and accountability for wrongdoing. Beyond the legal duty to ensure justice, this would be an important contribution to AMISOM’s mentoring role for the Somali army.

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