The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2102 of 2 May 2013 established the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and provided the Mission with a strong human rights mandate. The mandate authorizes UNSOM 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 by all actors in Somalia. The mandate envisions the deployment of human rights observers for these purposes.
The UNSC Resolution 2102 and subsequent resolutions have emphasized the importance of UNSOM’s adherence, monitoring and support to implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Human Rights and Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP) and the United Nations Zero-Tolerance Policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Security Council Resolutions 2036 (2012), 2093 (2013), 2124 (2013), 2232 (2015), and 2245 (2015) have affirmed that any support provided by the UN to non-UN security forces, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA), shall be in full compliance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. 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 support to the strengthening of rule of law and implementation of the action plans on human rights.
UNSOM’s Human Rights and Protection Group (HRPG) discharges the Mission’s human rights and protection mandate. It is led by the Chief of Human Rights and Protection Group, and includes women’s protection and children protection advisors. In the implementation of this mandate, the HRPG covers most regions of Somalia through its field offices. Currently, there are offices in Mogadishu, Garowe, Hargeisa, Baidoa, Kismaayo and Beledweyne. Human rights officers have also been deployed in all the offices to monitor human rights and work with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and regional authorities in the implementation of their mandate.
The work of UNSOM covers a wide range of human rights areas. For 2016, the UNSOM HRPG priorities include:
- Attacks against civilians and civilian objects
- Extra Judicial Executions
- Arbitrary Arrest and Detentions
- Death Penalty
- Conflict Related Sexual Violence and Gender-Based Violence
- Human Rights in Election Monitoring
- Freedom of Expression
- Discrimination in political participation
- Reinforcing human rights in Development and Humanitarian Agendas
Support for the Government
Somalia faces serious human rights challenges after more than two decades of conflict. One of the main issues is the lack of a national human rights mechanism capable of responding to the various human rights challenges facing the country. To address this, HRPG provides advice and technical support to the FGS to meet its obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights and freedoms of the Somali people as enshrined in the Provisional Constitution of 2012 and other international laws to which Somalia is a party.
The main collaboration between UNSOM and the FGS in the area of human rights has been in the development of the Post Transition Human Rights Roadmap which the FGS endorsed in August 2013. The Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development led the process for the development of the Roadmap and finalized an action plan following a national consultation supported by UNSOM HRPG in the second quarter of 2015.
The Action Plan seeks to implement recommendations emerging from the 2011 Universal Periodic Review process under the UN Human Rights Council. In collaboration with partners, HRPG assisted Somalia in submitting its second national report to the UN Human Rights Council in October 2015, and Somalia’s human rights situation was reviewed in January 2016. UNSOM with other partners supported the Federal Parliament to develop a draft bill for the establishment of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, which is in line with international standards, including Paris Principles on national human rights institutions. The bill has been tabled for review in the first half of 2016 during the final session of the current Federal Parliament. In 2015, Somalia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and implementation of the convention should be prioritized.
At the regional level, UNSOM supported the establishment of the Office of Human Rights Defender (OHRD) in Puntland in early 2015. As part of its advocacy efforts for the establishment of the OHRD, UNSOM held a round table discussion with international partners working in the area of human rights and agreed to work with the government on setting up the OHRD, which is now functioning. The Office has started to monitor human rights and conduct outreach. In April 2016, the OHRD launched its first annual report on the situation of human rights in Puntland. UNSOM also supports the Somaliland National Human Rights Commission in capacity building and monitoring.
Strengthening security forces compliance with human rights standards and norms
Many human rights violations committed during more than two decades of conflict have been attributed to the security forces, including militias who have committed these violations with impunity. In order to break this cycle of impunity, UNSOM is working with the SNA, the European Union Training Mission and AMISOM to provide training to Somali security forces on their understanding of and compliance with human rights standards in their day-to-day operations. The human rights training for the SNA is a requirement for UN support to the national army. As of 2016, over 10,000 SNA soldiers had been trained on human rights and international humanitarian law issues.
To improve AMISOM troops’ compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the execution of their duties in Somalia, UNSOM, in coordination with the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) Training Unit, and AMISOM have been providing a pre-deployment training for AMISOM troops.
The HRPG has been working with Bancroft International in the implementation of the Law Enforcement and Human Rights programme for the Somali Police Force. In 2015 and 2016, 120 officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the Mine and Unexploded Ordinance Department benefited from six trainings held in Mogadishu. The main objective of this training was to enhance the officers’ knowledge and understanding of international human rights standards and applicable national laws relevant to police work and help police officers incorporate human rights principles into the police service.
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. In April 2014, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the implementation of HRDDP in Somalia was adopted.
The SOP provides guidance and creates structures for the implementation of the policy in Somalia, such as the UN-AMISOM Joint Working Group on HRDDP and the UN-HRDDP Task Force. These mechanisms have been instrumental in the implementation of HRDDP. After more than two years of implementation of the policy, there have been achievements, challenges and critical lessons learnt. The SOP is currently up for review, which shall be undertaken shortly in order to address issues that have emerged during implementation.
Monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights
UNSOM continues with its regular monitoring and reporting obligations within the country, with a special focus on the violations and abuses resulting from acts and omissions by national and regional authorities. HRPG also monitors and reports on allegations of violations by parties to the ongoing conflict in the country in which Somali security forces, AMISOM and al-Shabaab are key protagonists. Key areas of focus include the situation of Children Associated with Armed Conflict and Conflict Related Sexual Violence. The HRPG also collaborates with UN agencies, funds and programmes as a member of the UN Country Team.
Engaging civil society and other partners
Somalia’s civil society organisations (CSOs) continue to play a pivotal role in the country’s democratic transition. Despite the multiple challenges and risks they face, CSOs have been in the forefront of combatting impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule of law in Somalia. HRPG engages civil society groups on a regular basis to sustain dialogue and contribute to reconciliation and nation-building efforts. UNSOM supports CSOs’ engagement with the FGS and other authorities to raise concerns about impunity, accountability and the rule of law.
UNSOM HRPG has established a Civil Society Forum, which convenes every month to discuss human rights issues and capacity building. Through the forum, the Mission seeks to contribute towards building the capacity of CSOs working on human rights issues, coordination and enhancement of their work.
UNSOM facilitates discussions and consultations for civil society organizations to help them better engage with Somali government institutions and the international human rights community for the promotion of human rights. In 2015, UNSOM facilitated the participation of 100 CSOs operating in south-central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland in consultations for the development of the CSOs’ report for the Universal Periodic Review process, which was later submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.
UNSOM has also been working with CSOs and has trained some of them to strengthen their capacity for monitoring and reporting on human rights in the country. Since access is restricted because of the security situation, the work of the CSOs is vital to monitor and report human rights violations and abuses, particularly in remote areas.
The collaboration with CSOs allows UNSOM to reach important segments of the Somali public including youth, students, and internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2015 and 2016, UNSOM and three CSO partners carried out three human rights training workshops for youth and IDPs in Mogadishu.
Engagement with other governments and diplomatic missions/mechanisms
HRPG continued to participate in the activities of the Nairobi-based Somalia Human Rights Working Group comprising the European Union and its Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. HRPG uses 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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council in sustaining their efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights in Somalia.
Read Human Rights Reports on Somalia
Read the Monthly Briefs on Human Rights in Somalia