Is the conflict against the SNM in northern Somalia condemned by the international community? [SOM2850]

The escalation of the civil conflict in northern Somalia since May 1988 has been of serious concern to the international community. To this end, the U.S. government, which has been the main arms supplier to Somalia in return for access to port and air facilities there, has commissioned two fact-finding missions during 1989. One of these missions, the U.S. General Accounting Office, reported that "The Somali army reportedly responded to the SNM attacks in May 1988 with extreme force, inflicting heavy civilian casualties and damage to Hargeisa and Burao. As a result, 350,000 Issaqs fled to Ethiopia, and others fled to neighbouring countries and other parts of Somalia". [ U.S. General Accounting Office, Somalia: Observations Regarding the Northern Conflict and Resulting Conditions (Washington, 4 May 1989), p. 2.] A 65-page report prepared in August 1989 for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for Refugee Programs accused the Somali Armed Forces of "a widespread, systematic and extreme violent assault on the unarmed civilian Issaq population of northern Somali" and of rounding-up and murdering, "mainly by having their throats cut", at least 500 Issaq men in Berbera alone. The report also includes new evidence of the Somali government's forcible conscription of Ethiopian refugees from UNHCR camps, "in violation of the conditions which govern their internationally-protected status, and notwithstanding vigorous protests by the UNHCR". [ Robert Gersony, Why Somalis Flee (Washington, August 1989), pp. 60-61.]

Because of the Somali government's human rights abuses in general and the widespread atrocities during its anti-SNM drive in particular, the U.S. government has reportedly suspended $21.5 million in economic aid and $2.5 million in military assistance, according to The Washington Post. [ David Ottaway, "5,000 Somalis Reported Killed by Army", The Washington Post, 10 September 1989.] Britain and Italy have also either curtailed or completely suspended the provision of arms. [ Richard Greenfield, "Somalia Slides into Chaos", New African, November 1989, p. 10.]

Several international human rights groups have repeatedly accused the Siad Barre government of massive summary executions and arbitrary detention without trial of members of the Issaq clan, from which the SNM is said to draw most of its support. One such report by Amnesty International, Imprisonment of Members of the Issaq Clan Since Mid-1988, is attached herewith. For other similar reports, please refer to: U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1989); Human Rights Watch and Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Critique: Review of the Department of State's Country reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988 (New York, July 1989); and Keesing's Record of World Events 1988, Vol. 34 (London: Longman Group UK Ltd., 1988).