United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Somalia, Ms. Isha Dyfan, upon conclusion of official visit to Somalia
(As prepared for delivery, Mogadishu, 2 April 2022)
Good morning to you all and thank you for attending this press conference.
Before I read my statement, I wish to call on everyone to join me in observing a minute of silence, in honour of the victims of the attacks, which took place in Mogadishu and Belet Weyne on 23 March 2022 – a few days before I arrived in the country. I extend my sincere sympathy to the families of the bereaved and those injured.
I would like to start by extending my best wishes to our Somali brothers and sisters on the beginning of Holy Month of Ramadan. May all our prayers for peace be accepted by Allah.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Federal Government of Somalia for accepting my request to conduct an official visit, and to commend the Government for its excellent cooperation and efforts to ensure a fruitful visit.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva for their considerable efforts in organizing this visit.
As you know, this is my first visit to the Federal Republic of Somalia, in my capacity as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia. I was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to assess, monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Somalia, with a view to making recommendations on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights. I was appointed to this mandate by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2020, but was unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions.
In light of this and the ongoing electoral process, I chose to focus my first visit on economic, social and cultural rights, as they relate to the benchmarks and indicators of my second report to the UN Human Rights Council.
During the course of my mission, I met with the federal Minister of Women and Human Rights Development and the federal Minister of Justice. I also held meetings with representatives of UNSOM, AMISOM, UN agencies, humanitarian organizations and civil society. I also had the opportunity to visit Baidoa, where I met with the President of the South West State, his advisers and the director of the presidency, the state Minister of Women and Human Rights Development and the Minister of Environment, as well as a wide range of civil society actors. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet and share with me the most pressing human rights issues, and for the warm welcome extended to me.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I will confine myself to some preliminary observations and recommendations on some of the main issues, which will be elaborated in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council at its 51st session in September 2022, in Geneva and to the General Assembly at its 77th session in New York.
Somalia continues to suffer from insecurity, conflict and recurring drought due to climate change, leading to additional internally displaced people (IDPs) and severe food and water shortages. To this end, the Federal Government and humanitarian partners are implementing the Emergency Response and Preparedness Plan of 2021 and pre-positioning food items, water and non-food items to support the IDP populations in Baidoa and other areas in the country.
Access to health care remains dangerously low in the country. There is only one Government hospital in the capital, Mogadishu, and people often have to seek health care services at a private health facility and pay out of their own pocket very high amounts for their own treatment. As a result, only a few people can afford these services, thereby leading to high child and maternal mortality. I therefore urge the Government to expand the delivery of public health services, in light of the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, and increase funding for its health system.
Other concerns relate to high rates of youth unemployment and early and forced marriages, which contribute to an extraordinarily high population growth and result in negative health consequences. I call on the Government to advance efforts to eliminate child, early and forced marriage and to protect the rights of girls in vulnerable positions.
In addition, the treatment and conditions of detention in Somali prisons fall well below international standards. Prisons are severely overcrowded and incarcerated adults and minors are not always separated. More so, capital punishment is a legal penalty and a moratorium on its use is not in place. I urge the Government to put a halt on all executions and to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, as a first step towards abolition.
Despite the enormity of these challenges, the Government has strengthened 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.
I have been briefed about the alternative dispute resolution centres established to handle small civil cases – including family issues, land and property rights – with a view to addressing the gaps in the justice sector and improving citizens’ access to justice. The alternative dispute resolution model, funded by international partners, complements the judicial process and is credited with resolving large number of cases, by applying Islamic and customary laws.
Women's political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. However, from the discussions, I was informed that the 30 per cent minimum quota for women`s representation during the ongoing electoral process is not being met, suggesting that more work needs to be done now towards the next election. I call on the Federal Government of Somalia to ensure that the quota for women’s participation in the remaining seats that are up for election is respected. I also urge the Government to ensure diversity and inclusion, which focuses on equal treatment and equal opportunity for marginalized and minority groups.
The right to freedom of expression and opinion is essential to any functioning democracy. However, there are concerns about arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists by security personnel across the country. I wish to reiterate the importance of respecting the right to freedom of expression and opinion. I recommend that laws and policies, whose ambiguity have been used to criminalize journalists for their legitimate work, are revised with a view to bringing their content and execution in compliance with the principle of legality and other international human rights standards.
I am encouraged by the launch of the legal aid unit by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to provide legal protection for journalists. The programme focuses on ensuring lawyers are equipped with the tools needed to promote fundamental rights related to media freedom based on international and regional legal standards.
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:
- Strengthening the Federal and Federal Member State institutions, in particular the security and justice institutions as well as the health system; and
- Addressing the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights, by ensuring access to basic social services including drinking water, sanitation facilities, housing, health care education for all children, in particular the girl child.
I thank you for your attention.