A new report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday, ‘What I Saw Is Death’: War Crimes in Mozambique’s Forgotten Cape, reports serious violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in the conflict in Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique.
The deadly conflict which started in October 2017 has resulted in widespread death, destruction and a humanitarian crisis that has caused more than half-a-million people to flee. The UN estimates that more than 530 000 people are displaced within Cabo Delgado.
The report focuses primarily on the impact of the increased fighting in Cabo Delgado since the major attack on Mocímboa da Praia in March 2020.
Amnesty reports that ‘Al-Shabaab’ fighters deliberately killed civilians, burned villages and towns, and committed heinous acts of violence with machetes, including numerous beheadings and desecration of corpses.
The report concludes that civilians are caught between three forces: Mozambiqeuan soldiers, mercenaries of the Dyck Advisory Group and Al Shabaab.
Amnesty International has previously revealed evidence of the attempted beheading, torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners; the dismemberment of alleged ‘Al-Shabaab’ fighters; possible extrajudicial executions; and the transport and discarding of a large number of corpses into apparent mass graves.
For the report Amnesty interviewed 79 displaced people from 15 communities. Because of the coronavirus pandemic Amnesty did not travel to the area themselves but conducted the interviews remotely. The destruction of towns were mapped via satellite imagery. The bodies of older people who had difficulty fleeing were found burnt in their homes.
According to Brian Castner, Senior Crisis adviser at Amnesty children have been particularly affected by the conflict and some girls as young as seven were abducted. Some of the boys were recruited to be turned into fighters.
‘The people of Cabo Delgado are caught between the Mozambican security forces, the private militia fighting alongside the government and the armed opposition group locally known as ‘Al-Shabaab’ – none of which respect their right to life, or the rules of war,’ said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
The report finds that under international law Mozambique has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right to life and to prohibit torture and other ill-treatment.
The government of Mozambique did not respond to Amnesty’s request for a response.
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