Reacting to a statement from US Africa Command (AFRICOM) pledging to begin, by the end of April, public reporting on civilian casualties resulting from its military operations in Somalia, Libya and elsewhere in Africa, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa, said:
"This is a welcome, though long overdue, step towards providing truth and accountability for the victims of US air strikes and their families in Somalia and beyond. It's shocking that it has taken more than a decade of AFRICOM's secret air war in Somalia for this to happen.
"We continue to stand in solidarity with families of civilians who have been killed or injured in US attacks, only to have their loved ones smeared as 'terrorists' and have their plight ignored. The truth must come out and they deserve transparency, accountability and reparation - all of which have been sorely lacking from the US military to date.
"We denounce violations of international humanitarian law by all sides and will continue to provide AFRICOM with the findings of our in-depth independent investigations into credible reports of civilian deaths and injuries and violations of international humanitarian law. And we will continue to push for thorough, independent and impartial investigations into credible allegations of violations."
Yesterday evening, AFRICOM pledged to publish quarterly reports on the status of its internal investigations into reported civilian casualties, something US-led military operations elsewhere in the world are already doing.
The military statement came just hours before Amnesty International today published the latest in a series of investigations into civilian casualties resulting from US air strikes in Somalia.
To date, the organization has gathered extensive testimonial evidence and relied on expert analysis of images and video from strike sites, satellite imagery and weapons identification to investigate nine separate cases where US air strikes have killed a total of 21 civilians and injured 11 more, some of which were due to apparent violations of international humanitarian law.
Last April, AFRICOM admitted to its first civilian casualties in the decade-long war in Somalia, citing Amnesty International's advocacy in its statement. However, in that and every other case, AFRICOM and other US authorities have failed to contact the families of the dead or offer reparation.