By  Ismail Mohamed Ismai’l

I-  Introduction

The illegal occupation of the Ogaden by Ethiopia is now in its most critical phase. The occupation has been marred by a litany of human rights violations and in recent times – war crimes. While these infractions are well-known to Somalis, a complete media blockade on all foreign and independent media outlets has concealed their plight from international observers. These atrocities – now being committed without accountability – are pervasive in nature and extensive in number. Insofar as they apply to the Ogaden, one of the more brutal policies currently being employed by the Ethiopian National Defence Force (‘ENDF’) is that known as ‘collective punishment’.
It is a fundamental tenant of legal jurisprudence that an individual can only be held legally responsible for an act he or she has personally committed and that a friend, family member or village cannot be held responsible for the act of an individual.a  Known as ‘individual responsibility’, in times of conflict the primary purpose of this principle is simple – to protect the lives and property of those who choose not to partake in the conflict.
The ENDF has not only failed to recognise these principles internationally, but their policies towards the Ogaden people display a complete and utter disregard for them.

II –  Background
Somalis living in Ethiopia have long suffered the ill-effects of this illegal policy. In late 2007, following an increase in fighting between the ENDF and a prominent liberation movement known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front (‘ONLF’), senior officials from the Ethiopian government and military met in the Ogaden region’s capital, Jigjiga, for high-level talks on the perceived ONLF ‘problem’ and the potential avenues available to subdue their resistance. The officials concluded that the resistance could be quelled by attacking what they believed to be the resistance’s primary sources of support.

At the time these included but were not exclusive to:
Rural villages and communities;
Humanitarian aid;
Local businessmen.

The above talks were swiftly followed by the former Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, officially waging a brutal counter-insurgency campaign against the resistance. Their attempts to exact the above policies have for the most part been directly responsible for countless extra-judicial killings; mass-scale forced displacements; burning of villages and farms; the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war; and the unqualified ban on international and foreign humanitarian aid.
These allegations are often substantiated by eye-witness testimony of those directly affected. Credence is further established by satellite imagery which in most instances corroborates these testimonies. [i]

III –  Ethiopian domestic Law on Collective Punishment

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