Human Rights Watch welcomes the Independent Expert’s new report. As noted, much needs to be done to ensure that Somalia’s state-building efforts improve civilian protection, respect basic rights, and tackle impunity.

Civilians continue to face a dire humanitarian and rights situation. Al-Shabab militants target civilians across the country, while Somali government forces and allied militia indiscriminately kill and on occasion unlawfully target civilians during military operations against Al-Shabab and clans fighting over resources and political power.

Recruitment and use of children as fighters, particularly by Al-Shabab, continues. Despite commitments by the federal government to rehabilitate children formerly associated with Al-Shabab, many are held for prolonged periods of time without access to relatives, lawyers, and on occasion sentenced to harsh prison terms by military courts.

Drought, clan conflict, the fighting with Al-Shabab and clan militia, and forced evictions, have resulted in hundreds of thousands displaced since late 2016, primarily into government-controlled urban centers. Many live in unsafe settlements where they face serious abuses, such as sexual violence, including by government soldiers and militia.

Federal and regional governments have adopted measures to improve accountability for sexual violence, but significant efforts and reforms are still needed to ensure fair and safe prosecutions. 

We urge the independent expert to use his mandate to promote fair prosecutions of sexual violence and to ensure that children formerly associated with Al-Shabab are promptly supported and that detention be a measure of last resort.

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and its military courts, which have a broad mandate over alleged terrorism-related crimes, have repeatedly flouted due process rights, including in death penalty cases, with no accountability.

The government and its international partners need to prioritize efforts to address impunity through the establishment of effective civilian oversight mechanisms, vetting and fair prosecutions.

Journalists continue to be killed and face harassment and threats by all sides. Regular public reporting by UNSOM and the Independent Expert on the human rights situation and abuses by all parties to the conflict is therefore critical.

Human Rights Watch encourages the OHCHR to undertake an exercise to map and document serious international crimes committed by all sides in Somalia throughout the conflict and recommend measures to improve accountability.