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In October 2015, a faction of al-Shabab splintered and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, hence founding the Islamic State in Somalia group (ISS). Since 2018, ISS is operating in central and southern Somalia, leading to intense clashes with al-Shabab.
‘Our research found that ISS’ level of organization and the intensity of the armed confrontations with al-Shabab meet the international humanitarian law criteria to classify the situation as a non-international armed conflict (NIAC)’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of this conflict, including information about parties and applicable international law.
This new NIAC complements the Somalia entry, which already entails regularly updated information about the NIAC between the Somali government and al-Shabaa, foreign interventions in this conflict and views of the parties.
Over the years, clashes between the Somali government and ISS have been rare and were therefore not enough to reach the intensity of violence threshold required by IHL to classify the situation as a NIAC.
In particular, ISS’ ability to conduct activities have been impeded by Puntland Security Force operations, as well as by the ongoing conflict between ISS and Al-Shabaab.
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While clashes are taking place among other groups affiliated with the Islamic State, our research concluded – in light of the low intensity of armed violence between them and the fact that they do not seem sufficiently organized – that the situation does not reach the IHL thresholds to classify these clashes as NIACs.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Ethiopia and the United States are supporting the Somali government in its fight against al-Shababa and are, as such, also parties to the NIAC opposing the Somali armed forces to al-Shabab.
The military component of AMISOM – authorized by the United Nations Security Council to use force to ‘reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups’ – has currently around 22,000 troops in the country. Its armed forces are deployed throughout central and south Somalia to fight against al-Shabaab.
‘While AMISOM military component includes forces from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, only AMISOM – and not the contributing countries – is involved in this NIAC’ underlines Dr Redaelli.
Ethiopian and United States armed forces are also supporting Somalian and AMISOM armed forces in their fight against al-Shabab and are, therefore, also parties to this NIAC under the ‘support-based approach’ proposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
As of March 2019, the US is also a party to this NIAC not only on account of its support to Somali and AMISOM forces but also due to its direct use of force against al-Shabaab. Indeed, the airstrikes and ground raids it has been conducting reach the intensity of violence required by IHL to conclude for the existence of a NIAC.
In addition to committing terrorist attacks in Kenya, al-Shabaab also conduct raids into Kenyan territory, targeting both civilians and the Kenyan security forces.
‘Taking into account the level of organization of al-Shabaab and the scale and scope of its attacks carried out in Kenya and the response of the Kenyan security forces to these attacks, we concluded that there was a separate trans-border non-international armed conflict between Kenya and al-Shabaab’ says Dr Redaelli.
‘Nevertheless, based on the information at our disposal, since Somalia cut ties with Kenya, Kenyan troops did not conduct military operations in Somalia against al Shabab’ she adds.
Tamara Aburamadan, currently enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.
Our RULAC online portal provides a detailed analysis of these conflicts. It has been updated to include recent developments, including the current peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Join us for our open house to learn more about this part-time programme designed professionals, meet staff, students and alumni, and discuss career opportunities.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, examines the conduct of hostilities in situations of international armed conflict, also known as the Law of The Hague.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.
The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.
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The ‘Counter-Terror Pro LegEm’ project combines legal analysis with social science research to (1) examine the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures and their effects on human rights and (2) analyse the structure of terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic State and see whether they qualify as ‘organized armed groups’ for the purpose of international humanitarian law.