Latest Update: 31 March 2013
The human rights situation in Somalia remains poor. The case of a woman who alleged she was raped and the journalist who investigated her case has been particularly prominent over the last three months. Initially five people were arrested in relation to the case, before the woman and the journalist were each sentenced to a year in prison. The woman was finally acquitted on appeal and the journalist shortly afterwards. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary raised concerns over this case with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during his visit to the UK in February. The Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds welcomed the conclusion of the case on 17 March and reiterated the UK’s commitment to support the Federal Government of Somalia in improving Somalia’s security and strengthening their police and justice systems. The case has highlighted problems with the Somali judicial system, including the length of pre-charge detention, access to lawyers, inconsistencies between charges, convictions and appeal verdicts, and freedom of expression.
The situation of journalists in Somalia continues to be of considerable concern as two more journalists have been killed this year, including the first female journalist to be killed, Rahmo Abdikadir. On 5 February, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon (Saaid) announced a task force with a three month mandate which will investigate a broad range of human rights abuses, including the organised killing of journalists and sexual violence against women. The UK will be closely following the task force’s progress.
In March Human Rights Watch released a report on the plight of women in internally displaced people’s camps. It outlined abuses, including physical attacks, restrictions on movement and access to food and shelter and clan-based discrimination throughout 2012. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the report and has publicly reiterated his personal commitment to the restoration of civil security in Somalia and to holding to account any who are found abusing human rights. The UK remains committed to working with the Somali Government to develop professional, effective and accountable security forces, including improving human rights standards.
The Federal Government of Somalia has been taking steps to improve respect for human rights within the country. The Minister for Justice, Abdullahi Abyan Nur, put a draft bill to the Somali Parliament which aimed to establish a Human Rights Commission, although the bill was rejected on the basis that it did not comply with constitutional requirements and parliamentary rules of procedure. The Somali Parliament has established committees for justice, human rights, women’s affairs and information and communication. These bodies will be important in pushing for the rights of vulnerable groups in Somalia.
The Governments of the UK and Somalia will co-host an international conference on Somalia on 7 May in the UK. The conference aims to provide international support for the Government of Somalia as they rebuild their country after two decades of conflict. The conference will focus on the priorities of the Federal Government of Somalia: security, justice, public financial management, political progress and preventing sexual violence.