By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — A 20-second video showing soldiers throwing dead bodies onto a pile of burning rubbish in northern Mozambique gives just a glimpse of what is happening far from view in this “forgotten war”, the human rights group Amnesty International has declared.
It is the “latest evidence of atrocities committed” in the province of Cabo Delgado, which has been plagued by violence from armed jihadist groups for more than five years and where the Mozambican army has been supported since 2021 by Rwandan and neighboring country soldiers, the group said in a statement.
Such atrocities could amount to war crimes if verified.
The cremation of these bodies “is deplorable and likely a violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the mutilation of corpses and requires that the dead be treated with respect”, said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty’s director for Southern Africa.
Regional forces possibly including South African soldiers, deployed in the area, have opened an investigation and promised “the culprits will be brought to justice.”
South Africans form the bulk of the SAMIM (Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique) forces fighting insurgents in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. SAMIM is described as an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the Southern African Development Community in Northern Mozambique)
“The incident is believed, but not yet confirmed, to have occurred in the aftermath of a successful attack on an insurgent stronghold, which left 30 enemy combatants dead,” John Stupart, Director of African Defense Review, told the German news service DW.
He called the incident “completely unacceptable” and added, “to treat bodies with respect is enshrined in international laws on war.
The South African soldier, believed to be a special forces member, was not shown directly taking part in burning the bodies. Instead, he holds a rifle in one hand and appears to be recording a video with his cell phone.
Stupart said he could still be in trouble and face charges of war crimes in a military court back home.
SAMIM said it was looking into the “circumstance around the matter.” It vowed to keep the public informed of its findings.
Several other Southern African countries are contributing troops to the regional force fighting alongside Mozambican and Rwandan soldiers against the insurgents. They include South Africa with 1,495; Botswana with 296, Lesotho contingent 125, Tanzania with 274 and Namibia with 8.
The European Union is partly funding the SAMIM to the tune of roughly $15 million.
Since the conflict in resource-rich Cabo Delgado started in 2017, more than 4,000 people have been killed and “nearly 1 million” have been forced to flee, according to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Meanwhile, Mozambique, Ecuador, Japan, Malta, and Switzerland got a formal welcome into the U.N. Security Council this month, taking the two-year seats they won unopposed in June.
In a tradition that Kazakhstan started in 2018, the five countries’ ambassadors installed their national flags on Tuesday alongside those of other members outside the council chambers.
Ambassador Pedro Comissário Afonso of Mozambique called it “an historic date” as his country joined the U.N.’s most powerful body. [IDN-InDepthNews — 16 January 2023]
Image: Mozambique. Source: Global Information Network
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