Serious violations of International Humanitarian Law in Cabo Delgado

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This article is a brief presentation of Amnesty International's report, "What I saw is death - war crimes in Mozambique's forgotten cape".

The conflict in Cabo Delgado province has intensified in recent months, and the fighting has been characterized by serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international conventions and standards protecting the human rights of civilians, particularly against women, the elderly and children. Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organization with over 7 million people, active globally in over 70 countries. In this report, it highlights the serious violations of IHL committed by all actors involved in the conflict in Mozambique, and denounces the violence to which civilians have been systemically subjected since 2017. 

The theatre of these brutalities is the province of Cabo Delgado, located in the northern part of Mozambique, 2,500 km from the capital. Lack of investment, poverty and damage produced by natural disasters have culminated in a furious insurgency, which has caused a deep humanitarian crisis, and the consequent displacement of more than half a million people. The violence in Cabo Delgado is defined under IHL as a non-international armed conflict, opposing on the one hand the armed group known as Al-Shabaab, and on the other hand the Mozambique government forces together with the Dyck Advisory Group, a private military company (PMC). According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit organization dealing with data collection, mapping and crisis analysis, between October 2017 and February 2020, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed by the conflict, and over 530,000 have been internally displaced. According to data from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 250,000 displaced persons are children. 

As reported by Amnesty International, Al-Shabaab has perpetrated numerous abuses against civilians, who are regularly killed by the fighters through brutal practices of beheading and chopping. The Organization has also reported several cases of abduction of women and children, who are generally recruited, or subjected to sexual abuse and forced marriages. 

According to Amnesty International, government forces are also often perpetrators of violence against the population, despite being them responsible for the safety of citizens and the protection of their property. 

Civilians interviewed claimed to have been constantly subjected to harassment and extortion by the police, which targets particularly those considered to be potential Al-Shabaab supporters. However, the most serious abuses committed by the Mozambican police were documented by Amnesty International through videos and photos showing members of the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces (FADM) and the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) carrying out acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, beheadings and ill-treatment of prisoners, usually belonging to Al-Shabaab or suspected of being affiliated with the terrorist group.

Numerous violations have also been committed by the Dyck Advisory Group. According to local witnesses, the private military company's planes and helicopters often attack civilian targets, such as schools and hospitals, and shoot indiscriminately at people, without distinction between combatants and civilians.  

The impact of the conflict on the civilian population has so far been devastating. Many are internally displaced, migrating from the north of the country and the coast to the south and the hinterland. The already precarious living conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs), due to the impossibility of satisfying the most basic needs, have worsened due to the inability of the places of destination of the refugees to provide for shelter, them being still affected by the conflict and difficult to access by the humanitarian agencies. 

In light of this, Amnesty International calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. It also urges access to conflict areas to be facilitated for humanitarian workers and human rights observers. Finally, it calls on the government of Mozambique to investigate the war crimes highlighted in this report and to bring the suspected perpetrators to justice, as well as to provide full reparations to the victims of these crimes.

 

To know more, please read:

https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/%E2%80%9CWhat%20I%20saw%20is%20death%E2%80%9D%20-%20War%20crimes%20in%20Mozambique%E2%80%99s%20forgotten%20cape%20-%20AFR4135452021_EN%20%281%29.pdf

 

Author: Francesca Mencuccini; Editor: Carla Leonetti

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