Latest Update: 31 December 2013
The human rights situation in Somalia continues to be poor, comprising a range of challenges. The Federal Government of Somalia has been working to implement their human rights commitments detailed in the September Human Rights Council resolution, including drafting legislation to create a national human rights commission. The UK remains strongly supportive of this work.
There are frequent reports of rape and further concerns over the way in which cases are handled once reported to the police. These concerns were highlighted by the case of a woman who reported to the police in August that she was taken by local government forces and handed over to AMISOM (African Union Mission to Somalia) troops before being gang-raped and then left on the streets. Investigations into her case have proved slow, opaque, and, three months later, are still incomplete. The UK continues to strongly urge the Federal Government of Somalia to ensure that all cases of rape are investigated promptly, in a full and transparent manner.
In December, facilitated by the UK, the UN team of experts on sexual violence visited Somalia and met government representatives, civil society, lawyers, justice sector representatives, and international partners in order to better understand and advise on the situation in Somalia. They are now compiling their report which will include recommendations on ways in which the Federal Government of Somalia can strengthen the Somali legal system to prosecute crimes of sexual violence, and also mobilise international partners to support the Federal Government of Somalia in implementing real changes and solutions to these issues.
On International Human Rights Day, 10 December, we announced £1 million of UK spending on projects to prevent sexual violence across South Central Somalia. Led by Somali organisations, we have developed a package of direct programming across South Central Somalia. Our approach is victim-centred, starting with the provision of basic services. Projects focus on training and capacity building, including health workers, providing psychosocial, legal, and economic support, and raising awareness through education. In addition, we are providing dignity kits for victims who fled their homes without basic items such as clothing and toiletries and are living in deplorable humanitarian conditions. This is combined with a wider effort by DFID whose programming includes: improving economic opportunities for women; essential packages of health services; addressing female genital mutilation; the provision of safe drinking water; and a governance programme which is designed to make formal institutions (including the justice system) more responsive to the needs of women and girls.
Media freedoms and the protection of journalists remain a major issue of concern in Somalia. In October 2013, a broadcaster from Universal TV, Mohamed Mohamud Tima’ade, was shot by unidentified gunmen outside his home in Mogadishu and died of his wounds in hospital four days later. The Federal Government of Somalia has announced its intention to revise the 2007 media law. The new law will send an important message about the government’s commitment to upholding media freedoms and pursuing justice for victims of violence in the media, and tackling the culture of impunity. The new law is in draft and is due to be passed to the Parliament shortly. The UK government has supported the development of this law by funding a consultation among exiled journalists in the the diaspora in the UK, where many of Somalia’s largest broadcasters are headquartered.
Among other developments, the Shabelle Media Network has made a series of allegations against the Federal Government of Somalia. They accuse the government of unfair treatment and harassment following the closure of Shabelle Radio in October when the building they were using was reclaimed by the government. They also claim that equipment owned by Shabelle was seized by the authorities and damaged or destroyed. These reports, if true, are concerning. We continue to encourage the Federal Government of Somalia to uphold their commitments to ensuring a free and safe environment in which media organisations can operate in Somalia.
Update: 30 September 2013
There continue to be reports of widespread human rights violations in Somalia. The UN Secretary General’s Report on Somalia noted the impact of armed conflict on civilians, targeting of journalists, issues surrounding child protection, and sexual and gender-based violence as particular concerns. On 16 August the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released figures for Somalia stating that there were 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence reported in Mogadishu in the first half of 2013 and, of these, around one third concerned children. Many crimes continue to be perpetrated by unknown armed men and men wearing military uniform. Internally displaced people remain particularly vulnerable to these crimes.
Reports of journalists and media workers being targeted also continue, with two deaths: journalist Liban Abdullahi Farah in July and media worker Ahmed Sharif in August.
On 14 August, the humanitarian relief agency, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), announced they would be closing all of their programmes in Somalia, citing extreme attacks on their staff and breakdown of trust in the environments in which they were working. Other organisations, including the UK Department for International Development (DfID), have been working to bridge the gap in services left by MSF, which was providing health services in some of the most remote parts of Somalia.
Despite the lack of effective rule of law institutions, the federal government of Somalia has made positive moves to improve the human rights record in Somalia. On the 27 August a special Cabinet meeting endorsed a new human rights roadmap for Somalia. The UN Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, welcomed the government’s endorsement of the roadmap, but called for the Somali authorities to make greater efforts to consult more widely with regional administrations and civil society organisations throughout Somalia, to ensure wide ownership.
On 24 September, at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Somali Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, attended a high-level interactive dialogue on Somalia, at which he recognised the significant challenges Somalia faces in addressing human rights violations, but reiterated the federal government of Somalia’s commitment to upholding human rights. The subsequent resolution, passed by consensus, committed the federal government of Somalia to institutionalising human rights in their reform plans and to setting up a national human rights commission in due course. The resolution also recognised the importance of the monitoring and reporting of human rights in Somalia by domestic and international experts.
Following on from the Somalia Conference in London on 7 May, the EU and the federal government of Somalia co-hosted a conference in Brussels, which endorsed a “New Deal Compact” for Somalia. The Compact is based on a dialogue between the federal government, the Somali Parliament, the regions and people of Somalia, and the international community, with the aim of promoting political reconciliation, and establishing peace, security, justice and sustainable development throughout the country. In support of this work donors pledged £1.5 billion, which included £50 million from the UK.
The planned UN Team of Experts visit mentioned in the June 2013 update has been delayed due to security concerns. The UN are currently looking to reschedule it for the earliest opportunity. We are working on proposals for other Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative projects in the interim.
Update: 30 June 2013
The human rights situation in Somalia remains poor. However the Somalia Conference on 7 May, co-hosted by the Federal Government of Somalia and the UK, has led to renewed international focus on Somalia We welcomed the Somali government’s commitments, outlined in the Conference communiqué. This included:
- building accountable and professional military that respect a civilian chain of command, the rule of law, and human rights;
- equal access for all to a robust, impartial and effective justice system;
- an accountable, effective and responsive police service for Somalis;
- an effective and secure criminal justice system, including the establishment and maintenance of prisons administered with respect for human dignity, central to Somalia’s ability to tackle crime in a human rights-compliant manner;
- transparent and effective public financial management systems and commitment to coordinate assistance using the structure set out by the Government; and
- a free and secure press.
We are now working with the Somali government to implement these plans.
At the Somalia Conference the Federal Government of Somalia signed a joint-communiqué with the UN, committing both to work together on preventing sexual violence in Somalia and welcoming a UN team of experts who will visit Somalia in late summer. The UK will work with the Somali government and the international community to facilitate this visit and implement the recommendations that result from their discussions. In the meantime DFID continues to help health workers to identify and refer women suffering harmful consequences of female genital mutilation to medical expertise.
However, Al Shabaab continue to demonstrate their ability to threaten peace and stability in Somalia with the large-scale attacks on the main court house in Mogadishu on 14 April, and most recently the UN compound on 19 June. Al Shabaab also attacked a Turkish Red Crescent convoy on 14 April and continues to target civilians, journalists, lawyers, international actors and religious minorities. These attacks hamper the ability of the international community to carry out their work in Somalia.
The situation for journalists in Somalia remains concerning. On 21 April, Mohamed Ibrahim Raage, who worked for Radio Mogadishu and Somali National Television, was shot outside his home in Mogadishu. In June, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists released a report detailing cases of eight Somali journalists whom they have assisted to flee Somalia in the last 12 months due to persecution. This followed the release of their impunity index for 2012 which ranked Somalia second in the world with 23 unsolved murders of journalist over the past decade. The Federal Government of Somalia has committed to investigate the murders of journalists, but there has been little progress on this.
Political tensions in Somalia are also affecting human rights. Continued uncertainty over the governance of regions in Somalia, particularly Jubaland in south central Somalia according to human rights watch reports, has led to civilians being caught between militia battles for control of the area.
Legislation to establish an independent National Human Rights Commission in Somalia is now with the Somali parliament. This body is expected to be the primary advocate of human rights within the Federal Government and will lead on the investigation of human rights violations including sexual violence against women and the killing of journalists.
The National Human Rights Commission was endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which passed a resolution on Somalia during the June Session. This resolution called for the Federal Government to compile a human rights road-map by the end of 213. The UK will continue to support Somalia in undertaking this work.
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.