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AI Index: AFR 52/005/2003
12 June 2003 By Amnesty International
As delegates to the Somalia Peace and Reconciliation Conference begin, in the coming days, to choose an interim parliament, Amnesty International calls on them to ensure that the new members of parliament, and of the interim government it will subsequently elect, will be fully committed to protecting human rights and the rule of law during the difficult task of reconstructing the disintegrated Somali state.
If disagreements on an interim Charter are quickly resolved, the 361-plus conference delegates are very soon due to choose, mainly from among themselves and on a clan-sharing basis, interim members of parliament who will then elect an interim president for possibly the next three years. The interim president's new government will replace the current ineffective Transitional National Government (TNG), whose three-year term from the previous peace conference expires in mid-August 2003.
"After 12 years of civil wars and state disintegration following 21 years of the repressive Siad Barre government, Somalia deserves a new start for human rights," Amnesty International said today.
"It would be unacceptable for faction leaders or former officials responsible in the past for crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross human rights violations to be given blanket impunity or amnesty and to be part of a new government obliged to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights treaties ratified by Somalia in the past, which are still binding," Amnesty International said.
Nine months of difficult peace talks in Kenya must have sensitized all the delegates to the urgent need for real peace and security throughout Somalia. The faction leaders have heard the voices of Somali civil society and the international community, and should recognise that the new leaders must represent the whole country and protect all its citizens, and not just their clan or personal interests.
Amnesty International is calling on the delegates to choose leaders who will genuinely protect human rights for all Somalia's citizens.
"Parliamentary and presidential candidates should be asked to explain their human rights record and to pledge their personal commitment to protecting human rights in the future and the rule of law," the organization said.
"There should be a 'leadership code of ethics' and acceptance of a broad human rights agenda to which leaders could be held accountable. This should be accompanied by mechanisms for human rights monitoring, for example by an independent and impartial National Human Rights Commission including respected members of civil society and human rights defenders, to prevent any return to the abuses of the past."
A human rights agenda
Fundamental human rights which should be respected and protected by the interim authorities include:
Human rights defenders