Press statement by Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia Mr Bahame Tom M. Nyanduga

25 Jul 2019

Press statement by Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia Mr Bahame Tom M. Nyanduga

Mogadishu

Good Morning, ladies and gentlemen,

Before I read my statement, I wish to request all to stand and observe a minute of silence, in honour of all those who have lost their lives due to the terrorist bomb attacks, including those which occurred during this week, while I am here. I extend my condolences to the families of the deceased, and wish the injured a quick recovery. May the soul of the deceased persons rest in eternal peace. Amen.

I wish to start by thanking you all, for coming to this Press conference.

I wish to thank the Federal Government of Somalia for its invitation and warm welcome to me and my team, and for the fruitful cooperation and continuous engagement with me over the past six years. This is my last mission to the Federal Republic of Somalia, in my capacity as Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, and therefore my last press conference with you.

I was appointed to this mandate by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014. 

My first mission to Somalia was in December 2014. Since that time, besides Mogadishu, I was able to travel to Jubaland, Puntland, South West State, and had interactions with Ministers from Hirshabelle and Galmudug States. I also went to Somaliland.

My mission this time started on 15 July in Nairobi, Kenya and ends here, today.  While in Mogadishu, I met the Speaker and members of the Human Rights Committee of the Federal Parliament, Federal Ministers for Water and Energy, Constitutional Affairs, Justice, Health, and Women and Human Rights Development. I also met UNSOM and AMISOM Representatives, Trade Unionists and representatives of UN Agencies, humanitarian organizations, civil society in Mogadishu.

I also visited Somaliland, and met the Speaker of the Somaliland Parliament, the Attorney General, Minister for Justice, the Somaliland Human Rights Commission, and representatives of civil society in Hargeisa.

I wish to thank all those who devoted time to discuss with me Somalia’s most pressing human rights issues, but also opportunities for the country to consolidate and sustain peacebuilding and reconciliation  achieved over the past few years. I wish to commend the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member States for strengthening its normative and institutional frameworks to address the promotion and protection of human rights, including in the area of rule of law and administration of justice, and to enhance the independence of the judiciary. 

During my mission, I had several discussions about the progress made by Somalia in the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the remaining challenges in this area, including the contributions my mandate and the international community to the improvement of the lives and alleviation of suffering in Somalia, notwithstanding the fact that the primary responsibility to guarantee respect for human rights lies with the Government at the Federal, State and local levels.

I also discussed with the authorities, the challenges that Somalia continues to experience, during the past six years. These include the continuing conflict, the terrorist attacks and bombs, inequality, discrimination. Further to the foregoing, there are challenges to the realization of the right of access to economic, social and cultural rights, such as access to water, land, health and education, particularly as they impact the rights of women and girls, especially internally displaced girls, persons with disabilities, minorities, marginalized communities and other vulnerable groups.

I expressed concern at the delay in the operationalization of the National Human Rights Commission, after the selection process was completed in 2017 because it is crucial for the establishment of the Judicial Services Commission, which is necessary to ensure judicial independence and accountability. Similarly, the lack of progress in the enactment of the Sexual Offences Bill at the federal level. In both cases I urged the Federal Government and Federal Parliament, to address as a matter of priority the challenges affecting operationalization of the Commission, and the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill, respectively, to enhance protection of human rights in the country.

Regarding reform to the justice and security sector, in particular the reform of traditional justice mechanism, and its negative impact on the rights of women, I was happy to learn about the establishment of the Alternative Dispute Centres in several Federal Member States composed of adjudicators from different segments of society, including women, youth and elders, and which are increasingly playing a key role in the settlement of civil cases  at the local community level.  

I learnt about the ongoing constitutional review, which upon completion later this year, will consolidate Federalism and the prospects for an inclusive legal framework for the 2020 and 2021 election. The absence of an acceptable mechanism to guarantee representation of women, minority clans, marginalized communities, persons with disabilities, IDPs and youth, under the proposed new multiparty based proportional representation electoral model remains a challenge. I urge the Federal Parliament to ensure that they add clear  provisions and specific mechanism in the electoral law to protect women quota in Parliament and a procedure for ensuring the election of representations from minority clans, marginalized communities, persons with disabilities, IDPs and youth, and protect the gains achieved during the 2016 and 2017 elections rather than leaving this to the electoral commission.

I also discussed with the authorities about the endemic problem of sexual and gender based violence, in particular the deplorable allegations of gang rapes that are often reported to be occurring across the country. There is unanimity that existence of a strong judiciary and police will greatly contribute to eliminate the conflict related sexual violence and other forms of gender based violence.

I would like to reiterate the need to implement laws against sexual offences which have been adopted in Puntland and Somaliland, to ensure that victims are protected, have access to justice and effective remedies, and that perpetrators of these heinous crimes are held accountable. In this context, I urge the Federal Government and Federal Member States to take all necessary measures to strengthen capacity for investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender based violence and to promote a safe environment where victims and survivors can report crimes without any fears of reprisals or stigma.

The Women’s Charter adopted in March 2019 pays particular attention to the current marginalization, discrimination and victimization of women. It is a good policy platform for crafting solutions to problems affecting women, including in the areas of participation and representation in decision-making processes.

The regular occurrence of inter- and intra- clan conflicts, which cause loss of lives and perpetuate clan based conflicts continues to concern me. The major cause of intra clan conflicts is competition for access to land, water and pasture, which are becoming acute with climate change. I urge the international community to pay special attention to the water crisis in Somalia, and assist the Government to find long term, durable solutions to the water crisis. Access to water is a basic necessity of life and a fundamental human right. Addressing the problem of water scarcity will contribute significantly to peace and reconciliation among clans.

As I come to the end of my mandate, I wish to record some of the progress that has been made by Somalia during the last six years. I wish to commend the people of Somalia for their resilience in the face of conflict, terrorist bomb attacks, natural disasters, grave violations of human rights and other challenges, such as poverty and lack of adequate basic needs for livelihoods.

PROGRESS

Since my first mission in December 2014, I have witnessed considerable progress in the security, political, economic, social and human rights situation. I have witnessed the recovery of territory, major towns and cities, the diminishing of Al Shabaab’s capability by the Somali security institutions, AMISOM troops and bilateral forces. I wish to commend the Somalia National Army and AMISOM troops for their achievement and sacrifices.

I have witnessed the establishment of Federalism, and institution building at the Federal and Federal Member states levels.

I witnessed the holding of the 2016 and 2017 electoral process, in spite of Al Shabaab intimidation and threats in 2016 and 2017. I regret the deaths of 44 clan elders and other people, who were killed for ensuring that the electoral process was successful. It is a stark reminder that security and other arrangements, including the non -interference with freedom of expression, are necessary conditions for a democratic Somalia, and will provide a conducive environment for credible elections in 2020 and 2021.

I have witnessed the increased number of women in Parliament and cabinet, following the 2016 electoral process, and others holding public office. The appointment of women as Ministers for Women and Human Rights Development, Water and Energy, Ports, Health, and Youths and Culture, and the Deputy Commissioner General of Police, are cases in point. These appointments highlight the importance of women participation in public affairs, in peace and reconciliation, and in decision making on matters that affect them directly.

The Federal Government and the Federal member states are enhancing access to basic human rights including health, water, and education for the people of Somalia. The increasing enrolment of girls in schools is a good development for the realization of women rights in Somalia.

Somalia’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, sends a strong signal about its commitment to protect human rights. The Independent Expert commends the Federal government for the establishment of a Disability Authority, and together with Puntland and Galmudug for undertaking the rehabilitation of children who escaped or were captured from Al Shabaab.

These developments have contributed to create a conducive environment for the promotion and protection of human rights in Somalia.

REMAINING CHALLENGES

Notwithstanding the significant progress in the security, political and human rights landscape highlighted above, I regret to state that many human rights challenges remain.

I have continued to receive reports about intimidation, arbitrary arrests and harassment of journalists across the country. This has remained a constant feature during the last six years. I wish to reiterate the importance of respecting the right to freedom of expression and opinion of journalists, other media professionals and media owners, as Somalia continues to lay the foundations for building a free and democratic society. The recent conviction of persons alleged to have killed a journalists, sends a strong signal for justice and accountability, to all people who violate the right to freedom of expression.

I am encouraged that the Joint Human Rights, Joint Police and Joint Rule of Law reform programmes are addressing the justice and security sector issues, which can only enhance respect for rule of law.

As I conclude my sixth mission, I would like to extend my very sincere appreciation to the people of the Federal Republic of Somalia, to His Excellency President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the Federal Government of Somalia, the Federal Member States, and to Somaliland for the opportunity they all accorded me, to be of service to this country. I extend gratitude on behalf of my five predecessors, who worked at a time of grave challenges. Some of them never set foot in Somalia, but have left an indelible mark on the human rights landscape in Somalia.

I also wish to take extend my sincere gratitude to the international community, which has supported the mandate throughout the 25 years of its existence.

It is my sincere hope that the constructive and open dialogue that characterized my engagement with the authorities and other stakeholders in Somalia during the last six years, will continues, with my successor.

I urge the international community not to relent in its support, at this last stage, when stability is increasingly becoming a reality in Somalia. I call upon the international community to continue its assistance to Somalia towards:

  1. strengthening the Federal and State institutions, and the justice and security sector ahead of the 2020/2021 elections;
  2. addressing the negative effects of climate change on the populations, in particular ensuring access to basic social services such as water supply, health delivery and education for all children, in particular the girls.

The findings of my mission and other recommendations, will be presented in a comprehensive report to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 42nd session in September 2019, in Geneva and to the General Assembly at its 74th session in October 2019, in New York.

Thank you for your attention.