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UN warns Somali militia against committing war crimes as fighting escalates

[JURIST] A UN official Monday warned members of fundamentalist Islamic and secular warlord militias fighting for control of the Somali capital of Mogadishu “that any deliberate attempt to prevent wounded or civilians receiving assistance and protection during fighting in the city may constitute elements of future war crimes.” Fighting between various factions has intensified in the past days and weeks, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee Mogadishu and prompting Somali MPs to call on the Somali prime minister to expel several warlords from the Somali cabinet [JURIST report].

Eric Laroche, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said [UNCT Somalia report] he was shocked at the targeting of hospitals [IHL backgrounder] in the course of the fighting, an action that blatantly violates the basic rules of international humanitarian law. “The fighting does have the potential to spread into other areas of southern Somalia, leading to further aggravation of the humanitarian crisis at a time when stability is needed for the success of the humanitarian-drought response in the region,” he said, emphasizing that it is “ethically unacceptable for fighting to be occurring in Mogadishu at a time when Somalia is experiencing a humanitarian emergency.” On Friday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement [text] expressing grave concern about the resumption of fighting between the fundamentalist Islamic faction and the secular Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism in Mogadishu, and calling for an unconditional ceasefire.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew long-time dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The current outbreak of fighting threatens the interim government [JURIST report] formed in 2004 after over a decade of anarchy. South Africa's Mail & Guardian has more. Shabelle News has local coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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