Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 13:23 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2000 - Somalia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2000 - Somalia , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Head of state and government: Somalia has no functioning government
Capital: Mogadishu
Population: 6.9 million
Official language: Somali
Death penalty: retentionist

Somalia continued to witness widespread abuses of human rights by the armed militias of clan-based factions, who operated with impunity. Somalia has had no judiciary or functioning court system since the central government collapsed in 1991. Islamic (Shari'a) courts formed militias and were themselves involved in human rights abuses. They condemned to death several prisoners who were subsequently executed. Scores of deliberate and arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians were carried out by clan-based militias. Human rights abuses included abductions and hostage-taking. Forced recruitment of child soldiers and rape were widespread.


Armed conflict

Continued fighting, especially in the south of the country, imperilled hundreds of thousands of people already at risk of famine.

Regional involvement

Eritrea and Ethiopia were directly involved in the inter-factional fighting, with Ethiopia supplying troops, hardware and humanitarian support to the Rahenweyn Resistance Army (RRA) in Bay and Bakol. The RRAused its increased military power to contain the advances of Hussein Aideed's forces. Ethiopia also reportedly supported the Somali Salvation Democratic Front which had formed a government in the self-proclaimed Puntland State, and a faction of the United Somali Congress–Peace Movement.

Eritrea and Yemen provided arms to the Somali National Alliance (SNA) militias of Hussein Aideed. Around 200 fighters from the Ethiopian armed opposition group the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), supported by Eritrea, were also involved in the Somali conflict on the side of the SNA. Hussein Aideed attended a series of meetings on peace and reconciliation with Ethiopian government officials in October. His forces subsequently disarmed a group of OLF fighters in their base in Mogadishu.


A national reconciliation plan proposed by Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh was endorsed by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in December and further discussions were due to take place in Djibouti early in 2000. Ethiopia held discussions in Addis Ababa and played a role as a mediator to the various factions, despite being a party to the conflict. No agreement emerged out of negotiations in Addis Ababa.

Somaliland Republic and Puntland State

The Somaliland Republic in the northwest, which proclaimed its independence in 1991, continued to seek international recognition. It enjoyed relative stability and a functioning administration. Regular police and militia were in place, but the judicial system faced serious problems and did not function well.

Similarly, in the self-proclaimed Puntland Regional State, some administrative structures were in place, but the judicial system, largely based on clan courts, failed to meet international standards.

Protection of civilians in conflict

Scores of unarmed civilians were killed in inter-factional fighting during 1999. None of the factions respected the principles of international humanitarian law, which regulate the conduct of armed conflict and protect civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross distributed copies of the Geneva Conventions among the clan militias, but unarmed civilians continued to be killed indiscriminately. Civilians were neither warned nor evacuated before areas were attacked, and were not spared in the fighting. In fighting in the south, factions did not differentiate between combatants, civilians and wounded soldiers. Hospitals were raided and patients, both civilians and wounded soldiers, were killed. Civilians were also abducted and taken as hostages. Rape was widespread in villages under militia control and the forced recruitment of children less than 15 years old into combat was common.

  • During fighting in Lower Juba region at least 47 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in September. Entire villages were destroyed.

Killings of aid workers

There was a pattern of killings of local and international staff working for humanitarian aid and relief agencies. More than 10 people died in attacks on relief agency vehicles and a number of aid workers were targeted and killed.

  • In September Dr Ayub Yarrow Abdiyow, a Somali doctor working for UNICEF, was killed by gunmen who ambushed his car between Afgoi and Jowhar town.
  • Deena Umbarger, a US national consultant for the Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), was shot and killed on March 20 as she was taking tea with town elders, allegedly by the militia al Itihad .

Absence of rule of law

In the absence of a national police force or judiciary, various clan-based militias established their own courts and took over responsibility for policing and judicial functions. Islamic and clan courts condemned to death several prisoners who were subsequently executed.

  • In October Islamic court militias seized port facilities, the police headquarters and the prison at Merca. They claimed that they did so in order to establish law and order. Nine people died during the battle.
  • In December the militia of the Islamic Court in Mogadishu detained and beat the head of the editorial board of the Qaran newspaper. They accused him of undermining their efforts to restore peace in Somalia.


Freedom of expression came under threat in Somaliland. In October a reporter was detained on the orders of the Criminal Investigation Department, after publishing a report about malpractices by customs officials at Berbera.

Puntland Regional State

In November Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, the leader of the Puntland Regional State, which proclaimed its autonomy in 1998, outlawed the carrying and possession of arms, except for the police and the administration's special forces.

In August, three journalists were arrested in Puntland after publishing reports critical of the authorities.

AI country report

  • Human rights in Somaliland – Awareness and action, Report of a workshop held in Hargeisa, Somaliland, organized by AI and International Cooperation for Development (AI Index: AFR 52/001/99)
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