The initial report of the United Nations Independent Expert on Somalia highlights the need for the Somali government to convert positive rhetoric and plans - notably in the areas of justice and security sector reform - into concrete action.
The human rights situation in Somalia, particularly in the south-central region, remains dire. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. According to the UN, 120,000 Somalis have been displaced since the beginning of 2014, primarily as a result of insecurity and fighting between the new joint Somali-African Union military force and Al-Shabaab militants.
In Mogadishu, which is largely under government control, the population continues suffer human rights abuses, including by the Somali security forces. The government has failed to protect the capital’s hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who endure forced evictions and restrictions on access to food and shelter. Al-Shabaab and other armed actors remain responsible for targeted killings of judicial personnel, lawmakers and clan elders. Since mid-2014, Somalia’s national intelligence agency, NISA, which does not appear to have a legal mandate for arrests and detentions, has intimidated and harassed journalists and media workers.
Women and girls, particularly those internally displaced, face significant risks of sexual violence, including by government forces. Members of the African Union Forces in Somalia (AMISOM) have also sexually exploited and raped vulnerable women and girls on their bases in Mogadishu often using the mission’s humanitarian assistance as a lure or form of exchange.Thus far, investigations and accountability for these abuses remains limited despite commitments expressed.
The independent expert’s focus on the justice system is very welcome. Lack of progress on the government’s plans to reform and equip the civilian justice system has left the military court administering justice for a broad range of cases and defendants in proceedings that fall short of international fair trial standards. Despite serious due process concerns, the military court has sentenced numerous defendants to death: 13 executions have taken place in Mogadishu in 2014-9 since July alone.
The Somali government should immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, move forward with its reform agendas, and create an enabling environment for the prosecution of sexual violence. This includes pressing the AMISOM leadership to ensure credible and impartial investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by AMISOM forces that ensure the safety of victims and witnesses.
The UN Security Council has mandated the assistance mission to Somalia, UNSOM, to monitor and report on abuses and implement the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. Human Rights Watch urges the UN, donor countries and other key stakeholders to ensure that the UNSOM Human Rights Unit publicly reports on the human rights situation in Somalia and is given the logistical, financial and political support to implement the Due Diligence Policy. The UN should also oversee investigations into abuses by AMISOM forces.
Given the gravity of the crimes in violation of international law committed in Somalia, Human Rights Watch reiterates its call for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry—or a comparable, appropriate mechanism—to document serious international crimes committed in Somalia throughout the conflict and recommend measures to improve accountability.