Open letter to participants in the Somali Donors' Conference

Amnesty International - EU Office
Dear Mr Solana,
Open letter to participants in the Somali Donors' Conference
In advance of the upcoming donors conference on Somalia in Brussels on 23 April 2009, Amnesty International is urging you to place the protection of the human rights for all Somalis at the center of your efforts to support Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions.
The donors conference, convened by the United Nations Secretary-General as requested by Security Council Resolution 1863(2009), is intended to solicit contributions for both the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for needs not covered by the United Nations logistical support package, and to support the Somali transitional security institutions. The re-establishment, training and retention of Somali judicial and security forces, encompassing military, police, and judiciary, is a monumental task, particularly given the challenge of ensuring such security institutions comply with human rights, are transparent and accountable, and subject to civilian oversight.
The existing National Security Force (the Somali armed forces) comprises a group of ex-Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and ex-Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) forces. These forces, estimated about 3,000 strong, are joint forces in name only, and still commanded by local security authorities. The Somali Police Force, in turn, consists of some 2,700 members, with a similar lack of clarity regarding composition, and command and control.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have documented war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave human rights abuses that have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Somalia since the beginning of 2007. These have included violations committed by forces of the Transitional Federal Government, over a period of time when they were receiving funding from international donors and support from the UN. For further information, please see our report Routinely Targeted: Attacks on Civilians in Somalia.

In spite of this history of involvement in human rights violations, it is Amnesty International's understanding that no personnel from any of the Somali National Security Forces have been vetted, and some of those currently active or being considered for service could be responsible for human rights abuses that have characterized the conflict in Somalia over the years. It is therefore essential that, in order to assess human rights compliance by these forces, credible national and international human rights monitoring must be established as soon as possible.
It is Amnesty International's assessment that the provision of funding and equipment to Somali security forces in such a conflict-ridden environment without first resolving issues of vetting, accountability, transparency and good governance of armed forces represents funding without oversight. International donor funding without oversight, however inadvertent, seriously risks providing additional support to individuals and groups who may have committed and could continue to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights violations. Such funding could also exacerbate the conflict, the opposite of its presumed intent.

A related issue is with regard to the current UN arms embargo on Somalia. In accordance with recent UN Security Council resolutions, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen the UN arms embargo on Somalia, including the requirement that all armed forces active in Somalia, as well as the Somali transitional armed forces, must request exemptions to import security-related material and equipment into Somalia. Donor governments should insist on adherence to this requirement with the transitional government. Donor governments should also contribute funding, as well as information and political support to the UN Monitoring Group, to improve enforcement of the embargo, to stem the tide of weapons into Somalia and prevent further human rights abuses against civilians.
In the absence of a permanent United Nations presence in Somalia, most particularly in Mogadishu, and similarly limited international diplomatic, humanitarian, human rights monitoring and protection presence, any UN support for security sector institutions would by necessity rely heavily on local partner organizations, making the possibility of independent and impartial monitoring, and the establishment of accountability and oversight systems difficult. Amnesty International is of the opinion that mechanisms of vetting, accountability, transparency and oversight, with international participation, should be in place before funds and equipment are transferred to any Somali security institution, and are incorporated into any support package for security forces. Such accountability mechanisms should include public monitoring and reporting as well as building the capacity for independent investigation into possible human rights violations, and mechanisms to ensure full adherence with current arms embargo requirements.
The Justice and Reconciliation Working Group established in late 2008 during the Djibouti peace talks, has to date failed to make progress towards its mandated objectives. The main task of this group should be to advance the establishment of mechanisms, such as concrete initial steps towards an international Commission of Inquiry, to investigate past abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law. Such a Commission of Inquiry could make a specific contribution to the vetting process for security and other potential government officials, in addition to sending a strong message that perpetrators of human rights abuses in Somalia will be held to account, and laying the ground work for a future justice mechanism to do so.
Amnesty International welcomes your participation in this important conference, and you commitment to pledge support for Somalia. However, any potential donations to address Somalia’s many significant needs must first be accompanied by support to establish mechanisms to ensure that the rights of Somali civilians are protected. We hope that the above recommendations from Amnesty International will inform decisions at the donors conference this month.
Thank you for your serious attention to these important matters. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like additional information. We look forward to hearing your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Amnesty International EU Office