Ever since motley militias from the Tigray clan were deployed in Ogaden five months ago, new forms of inhumane treatment of the Ogaden Somali civilian population surfaced. Kidnappings of innocent civilians by these militias, from far away towns and hamlets have become the norm.

Extrajudicial killings with the use of severe torture as an instrument and strangulation with iron chains as the method have become the modus operandi of these poorly trained, and illiterate soldiers from Tigray. Knowing full well how sacrosanct the immediate burial of a dead person is to the culture of the Ogaden civilians, these militias have lately adopted the public display of corpses.

To add insult to injury, they, militias, have barred people from burying the dead. It appears that these militias have been instructed to not only kill loved ones but also to humiliate those whose loved ones were killed under inhumane circumstances. It is becoming quite evident that the objective of these public humiliations of displaying and the barring of burial of the dead civilians is to provoke a reaction from the civilian population.

It is also a way of reminding the public how helpless they are in according the corpse of their loved ones a proper burial. Many of the corpses found so far show severe signs of torture. Some even have remnants of the instruments used in their torture and eventual death still present in their bodies.

This shows that whoever killed these innocent civilians appears so cocky that he or she is confident that there will be no repercussions for the death of these innocent civilians. As if denying people the right to bury their dead was not enough of humiliation, the militias have lately been seen throwing away the bodies of those who died under their illegal detentions.

Some of the dead civilians’ bodies were found floating in the rivers, tributaries or laying in the bush with missing body parts. Treating the civilians in the manner these militias have been operating so far is not only inhumane but is also against all the Geneva convention articles. In particular, the kind of treatment so far observed in Ogaden is against Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Ethiopia is a signatory to the Geneva convention. Meles Zenawi, the current ‘prime minister’, and his minions should be prosecuted as war criminals under the convention. International human rights organizations should not only investigate but also should document these atrocities carried out in Ogaden in broad daylight.

Those who perpetrated and those who ordered the introduction of these inhumane treatments and killings of innocent civilians must be brought to justice. The sooner the world puts these barbaric treatments to a stop, the better for civilians in Ogaden. The world should not watch another Rwanda in the making in Ogaden.


Ogaden Online Editorial

July 8, 2006