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UN Human Rights Expert Urges Somalia Ceasefire

Denouncing civilian deaths, UN rights expert urges Somalia ceasefire

23 April 2008 - An independent United Nations human rights expert has condemned the killing of civilians in Somalia, including a number of religious leaders, and called for an immediate end to the violence that has flared up in recent weeks in the Horn of Africa nation.

The country has witnessed renewed violence between the troops of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by the Ethiopian Army, and the anti-government insurgent forces.

"The use of heavy weaponry into areas where civilians are concentrated left reportedly 81 civilians dead and more than 100 wounded," Ghanim Alnajjar, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said in a statement issued today in Geneva.

Mr. Alnajjar condemned in particular the alleged deliberate killing of numerous clerics belonging to "Altabligh Group" at the Alhidaya Compound/Mosque.

"The killings have to be investigated expeditiously and impartially, and any lasting peace in Somalia must be based on justice, truth and accountability," he stated.

The Independent Expert appealed for calm and an immediate ceasefire, and urged the TFG and the international community to protect civilians in Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

On Monday Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern over this weekend's heavy fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, and deplored the substantial number of civilian casualties and injuries resulting from the violence.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged parties to the conflict "to refrain from the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force that endangers the lives of civilians, particularly in heavily populated civilian areas, and reminds them that any targeting of non-combatants is a violation of international law."

Rising insecurity is among the reasons that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) believes the humanitarian situation in the strife-torn nation is deteriorating faster than expected.

An estimated 1.8 million people in Somalia require humanitarian assistance and that figure could increase to 2 million once current assessments are concluded, according to OCHA.

ENDS

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