Soldiers accused of civilian violence

June 11, 2008 at 8:33 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 11 (UPI) -- Ethiopian soldiers are accused of committing acts of rape, torture and executions against civilians in eastern Ethiopia's Somali region, a rights group says.

The violent acts are part of the army's fight against rebels, which has led to a major crisis surrounding the existence of many ethnic Somali nomads, Human Rights Watch said in a 130-page report released this week.

The report, "Collective Punishment: War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in the Ogaden Area of Ethiopia's Somali Regional State," discusses the severe increase in violent acts against civilians since January of last year.

The report notes how the increase in violence came as the Ethiopian army began counterinsurgency efforts against those who attacked a Chinese-managed oil installation.

"The Ethiopian army's answer to the rebels has been to viciously attack civilians in the Ogaden," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "Yet Ethiopia's major donors, Washington, London and Brussels, seem to be maintaining a conspiracy of silence around the crimes."

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