By Abdi Hajji Hussein


Mogadishu, Somalia

Somalia's military court chief on Saturday downplayed a report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Somalia government's executions against its soldiers.

Speaking to reporters in Mogadishu after 14 Somali soldiers were sentenced to death for murder, Hassan Mohamed Hussein, the chief of military court says the government of Somalia doesn't break international human rights conventions, denying all allegations by the rights groups.

"The military court's work is to defend the rights of civilians in conflict zones (Mogadishu) and they are subject to infringement or meaningless killing. Therefore, government is to punish anyone killing or harming the innocent civilians" Mr. Hussein explained. He warned government soldiers against deserting frontlines without superior's permission.

He charged the report was prepared by individuals "relaxing in hotels" at the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, saying that they don't know about what is going on inside Somalia.

On the occasion, the chief of military court sentenced to death 14 soldiers foud guilty of murder cases.

Six of them were found guilty of collectively murdering a Somalia soldier in Mogadishu, the official said.

Hussein also mentioned that eight other soldiers were put on trial, seven of them were convicted of jointly killing a military officer in the capital. Another Somali soldier, who was charged with the same case, has been released after he was acquitted all charges against him.

"One different case is that a Somali soldier, Abdi Osman Ali raped a famine displaced woman and also deserted his position at the frontline without permit" he said, pointing out that Ali was given death penalty.

The chief military court noted they never tried anyone charged with a crime without a lawyer.

Early this month, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have jointly called on Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to ensure that its military court respects basic fair trial standards and immediately halt executions.

Military trials under way in Mogadishu raise serious human rights concerns, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. The military court functions with no guarantee of basic fair trial standards. "On August 22, 2011 two government soldiers convicted of murder by the military court were executed, with no opportunity to appeal as is required under international law" it said.

On August 29, the court sentenced two defendants to death for allegedly intending to sell ammunition to al-Shabaab, the armed Islamist group that controls much of the country. Sources reported that one of the defendants was a female civilian, and was asked only one question by the court during the short hearing and did not have legal representation, the rights groups explained.

"Unfair trials and executions are no answer for lack of accountability in Somalia, no matter how politically expedient the TFG may find them," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Upholding fundamental rights including fair trial guarantees is key to moving forward."


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Rights Groups Report on Somalia Downplayed | Global Viewpoint