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Probe Abdi Illey for war crimes-Human Rights Watch

Storyline:National News
FILE: Human Rights Watch Monday called for investigations into human rights abuses and war crimes against former Somali region president Abdi Illey. Photo: online

Immediate former president of Somali region in Ethiopia Abdirahman Illey and senior state officials must be investigated for war crimes and gross human rights abuses, the campaign body Human Rights Watch has said.

Human Rights Watch Monday called on the Ethiopian government to institute an independent probe into the role of Illey and head of the notorious paramilitary unit, Liyu Police Abdirahman Burale for serious human rights violations including operating the infamous Jail Ogaden which Illey used to silence dissent during his eight year tenure.

“To break with the past, Ethiopia’s government needs to ensure justice for more than a decade of horrific abuses in the Somali region,” said Maria Burnett, East and Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda should include that those responsible for serious human rights violations, however powerful, no longer avoid justice.”

A new investigation is needed and should look into the roles and responsibilities of Ethiopian military personnel who ordered or participated in attacks on civilians at the height of the conflict, Human Rights Watch said. “In addition, senior military and civilian officials who knew or should have known of such crimes but took no action may be criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility.”

Illey was forced to step down last month following a stand-off with the Federal Government which saw widespread protests and killings in the region.

In a report July, Human Rights Watch accused Illey’s administration of ‘systemic torture, brutal and relentless pattern of abuse, torture, rape, and humiliation, with little access to medical care, family, lawyers, or even at times to food.’

Many children, the report said have been born in Jail Ogaden, including some allegedly conceived through rape by prison guards. Female prisoners described giving birth inside their cells, in many cases without health care or even water.

HRW said PM Abiy’s reform agenda must include an in-depth, independent fact-finding mission into rights abuses and violations in the Somali region and its findings published and draw on international expertise.

“The federal government should not sweep abuses of such a scale and nature under the carpet in the name of political expediency,” Burnett said. “Now is the time for the federal government’s long involvement and complicity in widespread abuses in the Somali region to end and for accountability to begin.”