European lawyers are examining whether alleged war crimes committed by Ethiopian and Somali troops in Mogadishu last week could expose the EU to accusations of complicity because of its formidable financial assistance to the two countries.
A massive Ethiopian-led offensive to pacify an insurgency in the Somali capital left nearly 400 people dead between March 29 and April 1. Human rights groups say many of the victims were civilians and accuse the Ethiopians of using tanks and attack helicopters to fire indiscriminately into densely populated areas. Some analysts in Somalia have backed the war crimes allegations, saying that specific clans in Mogadishu have been targeted for “cleansing” by pro-government forces.
Reports of the attacks prompted the European commission’s senior adviser on security for Somalia to send a letter, seen by the Guardian, to Eric van der Linden, the commission’s head of delegation in Kenya, on April 2, alerting him to the “significance of the events of the past four days in Mogadishu in terms of the international law on conflict”.
The security adviser, who has wide experience in African conflict zones, including Darfur, said the head of the African Union peacekeeping mission, Amisom and comprising 1,200 Ugandans, might also be guilty of war crimes for failing to act responsibly. Ethiopian helicopters used the Amisom-controlled airport in Mogadishu as a base for launching helicopter attacks and flying in reinforcements.