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Human Rights
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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2102 of 2 May 2013 establishing the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) provided it with a strong human rights mandate which includes to monitor, help investigate and report to the Council on, and help prevent: any abuses or violations of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law committed in Somalia, including through the deployment of human rights observers. The UNSC emphasised the importance of UNSOM adhering to the Secretary-General’s Human Rights and Due Diligence Policy and the United Nations Zero-Tolerance Policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. In addition, the mission has been mandated to help build the capacity of the Government on human rights, women’s empowerment, child protection; fighting conflict-related sexual violence, and rule of law.
UNSOM’s Human Rights and Protection Group is discharging the mission’s human rights and protection mandate. It is led by the Chief human rights and includes senior women’s protection and children protection advisors. In the implementation of this mandate, the HRPG will cover most regions of Somalia, through its field offices. Currently, there are offices in Mogadishu, Garowe and Hargeisa, while plans are afoot for the takeoff of Baidoa and Kismayo offices. Human rights observers have also been deployed in all the offices to work with the FGS in the implementation of its mandateFollowing over two decades of conflict, Somalia faces serious human rights challenges. One of the main issues is the lack of a national human rights mechanism capable of responding to the various human rights challenges the country faces. UNSOM in collaboration with UNDP and other partners are supporting the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to develop a law that will guide the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in the capital, Mogadishu. 

Efforts are also being made to replicate such initiatives at the regional level; in Puntland, for example, work is ongoing for the creation of the Office of Human Rights Defenders (OHRD).

To address some of these challenges, the Government in August 2013 endorsed the Post Transition Human Rights Roadmap and declared 27 August as Somalia’s National Human Rights Day. 

However, fulfilling this and other commitments remains a herculean task as long as there is no national Human Rights Commission. UNSOM’s Human Rights Section continues to provide technical support toward the  development of a National Human Rights action plan.

UNSOM also provides human rights support in a number of other ways: 


UNSOM, in collaboration with the Puntland judiciary organised a three-day training workshop for judges of the various courts on human rights in the administration of justice from 15 – 17 September 2013. The training was aimed at strengthening their understanding of human rights and their application to their profession. 

A similar training was also conducted in collaboration with the Puntland Attorney General for prosecutors and police investigators from across the region to familiarize them with existing international legal standards regarding the right to liberty and security of the persons and fair trial guarantees.

In South Central Somalia, UNSOM has conducted training for police investigators and prosecutors on the rights of accused persons. UNSOM also plans to conduct training for prison officials on the treatment of prisoners and had, during the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day in December 2013, held in Mogadishu Prison, supported the Ministry of Justice to organise an open discussion on the rights of prisoners and to distribute human rights materials relative to prisoners rights. 

Support for the Government

Aside from working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Human rights and Women’s Affairs in providing necessary advice and technical expertise, UNSOM is also collaborating and supporting the Ministry’s efforts in the establishment of an independent national Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the finalisation of the Human Rights Roadmap.

Discussions are also ongoing by the human rights component of the Mission with the Minister and International Development and Law Organization (IDLO) to discuss technical assistance and support options for the Ministry in general and for the drafting of the national Human Rights Commission’s Bill. 

Efforts at the regional level in Puntland have also been stepped up to look into the issue of how the National Human Rights Commission will be linked to the existing sub-national institutions. To this end, and as part of its on-going advocacy efforts for the establishment of the Office of the Human Rights Defender, UNSOM held a round table discussion with international partners working in the area of human rights and agreed to work with the government on the setting up of the Office. UNSOM continues to coordinate technical and financial support for the institution once it is established. 

In March, UNSOM commenced a cost-free weekly training on human rights for members of the Puntland Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. UNSOM is also in discussions with UNDP on collaborations for joint support to the Committee, in particular as regards their oversight responsibilities.

Strengthening Security Forces compliance to human rights standards and norms

Many human rights violations committed during the more than two decades of conflict have been attributed to the security forces, including militias. In order to break this cycle of impunity, UNSOM is working with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to provide training to the Somali security forces on their understanding and compliance with human rights standards in their day-to-day operations.

To improve AMISOM troop’s compliance to international human rights standards and international humanitarian law in the delivery of support to the Somalia Security Forces, UNSOM, in coordination with the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) Training Unit, have been training AMISOM troops and SNA forces on human rights, as a requirement for deployment of AMISOM troops which in turn allows for the certification of SNA troops, making them eligible for the non-lethal package of support from the UN in joint military operations with AMISOM.

UNSOM’s Human Rights Section is also a member of Somali Police Training Working Group aimed at building the capacity of Somali police and to integrate international human rights principles into the work of the police force.

Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP)

On 13 July 2011, the UN Secretary-General endorsed the HRDDP on UN support to non-UN security forces. This policy ensures that the UN lives up to its own normative standards by guaranteeing that its support to non-UN security forces around the world is consistent with the organization’s Charter and its obligations under international law to respect, promote and encourage respect for international humanitarian law, international human rights law and Refugee Law.

 Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2124, which requires UNSOM, the UN Support office for AMISOM (UNSOA) and AMISOM to collaborate in the implementation of the HRDDP, UNSOM continues to chair the Joint Task Force on HRDDP comprising UNSOM, UNSOA and UNCT, and co-chairs the Joint Working Group (JWG) between AMISOM and the United Nations.  

UNSOM, as the lead on the JWG on the HRDDP, worked with the AMISOM focal point to undertake the mapping of available mechanisms within UNSOM, UNSOA AMISOM and SNA and their compliance with HRDDP, and has submitted the report for more detailed consideration. 

Monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights

UNSOM continued with its regular monitoring and reporting obligations within the country, with special focus on the abuses and violations resulting from the on-going military onslaught in most parts of South Central. The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Fatiha Serour, recently led a monitoring mission to Hudur. However, lack of access to many of the areas, including access to victims of human rights abuses and or violations has made it difficult for the Mission to verify many of the allegations received on the impact of the operations on civilians. The Mission is also collaborating with OHCHA, UNHCR, national and international partners on information gathering and sharing, such as reports of cases of human rights violations, particularly rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.  

UNSOM also continues to monitor the application of the death penalty and to advocate in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and other partners against its imposition and for the declaration of a moratorium by the FGS in line with its commitment during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011, when it voted in favour of it. The Human Rights Section is also advocating against the death penalty as part of the requirement under the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP).

Engaging civil society and other partners

Somalia’s civil society organizations continue to play a pivotal role in the country’s democratic transition.  However, their members continue to be victims of arbitrary arrests and detentions and targeted killings in their efforts to improve the situation. 

In its efforts to assist in developing a virile and vibrant Somalia, UNSOM is engaging civil society groups on a regular basis to sustain dialogue and contribute to reconciliation and nation building.

UNSOM has established a Civil Society Forum, convening its first meeting on 3 November 2013.  Through the forum, the Mission intends to contribute to further building the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on human rights through coordination and enhancement of work on key human rights concerns. In one of such areas, the Human Rights Section in September 2013 organised a workshop for CSOs in Garowe on human rights monitoring, investigations and reporting techniques.

UNSOM recently provided necessary technical support to Internews (a local NGO) supporting nation-wide consultations on the national Human Rights Bill, which concluded hearings in Puntland, Baidoa and Kismaayo. Against the backdrop of the report on the outcome of the consultation from Internews being sent to the Ministry of Justice and to the Parliament for consideration, the Human Rights Section is working with UNDP Parliamentary Support team to co-sponsor a seminar for MPs/Committee members for the smooth passing of the Bill into law. 

Engagement with Other Governments and Diplomatic missions / mechanisms

The Human Rights Section continued to participate in the activities of the Nairobi-based Somalia Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) comprising of EU, its Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the US and to use the platform to advocate, lobby and support the FGS for improved human rights promotion and protection. 

UNSOM continues to work very closely with the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Somalia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council in sustaining their efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights in Somalia.

UN Documentation – Guiding the work of the UNSOM Human Rights Group:

  • A/HRC/24/L.20 (20 September 2013) –  Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council , stressing the importance of technical assistance in building credible and impartial domestic capacity to undertake monitoring, investigations and public reporting to identify human rights concerns.
  • A/HRC/24/40 (16 August 2013) – Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari. The report contains a broad outline of the human rights issues proposed for consideration in the road map.  The report concludes with an update on human rights violations and other important developments since the previous report.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 2124, which details the requirements for UNSOM to work with AMISOM and the SNA in the implementation of the HRDDP.

London, 7 May 2013