Connect with us

Human Rights

Not enough being done to shield civilians from violence in Somalia – UN report



The armed conflict in Somalia continues to exact a heavy toll on civilians, damaging infrastructure and livelihoods, displacing millions of people, and impeding access to humanitarian relief for communities in need, according to a United Nations report launched today in the country’s capital, Mogadishu.

“Ultimately, civilians are paying the price for failure to resolve Somalia’s conflicts through political means,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating. “And parties to the conflict are simply not doing enough to shield civilians from the violence. This is shameful.”

The report – “Protection of Civilians: Building the Foundation for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Somalia” – covers the period from 1 January 2016 to 14 October 2017, and was produced by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which Mr. Keating also heads.

During this reporting period, UNSOM documented a total of 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries, with 60 per cent of the casualties attributed to Al Shabaab militants, 13 per cent to clan militias, 11 per cent to State actors, including the army and the police, four per cent to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), and 12 per cent to unidentified or undetermined attackers.

Civilians were the victims of unlawful attacks – by being directly targeted and through the use of indiscriminate bomb and suicide attacks – by non-State groups. Such attacks, which are prohibited under international human rights and humanitarian laws, are, in most cases, likely to constitute war crimes, and it is imperative that perpetrators are identified and held accountable, the report notes.
The worst incident on a single day was the twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu on 14 October, attributed to Al-Shabaab by Somali government officials and in which at least 512 people are officially recorded to have died as of 1 December, along with 316 injured. The attack received widespread condemnation, including from UNSOM and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“This barbaric act was the deadliest attack with an improved explosive device in Somalia’s history and surely one of the worst ever on the continent, if not the world,” said Special Representative Keating at the report’s launch. “Sadly, its impact will be felt for a long time.”

A significant number of recorded civilian casualties – 251 killed and 343 injured – was attributed to clan militias, in areas where federal or state security forces are largely absent. “The drought has intensified clan conflict due to competition over resources. These conflicts are exploited by anti-government elements to further destabilize areas, diminish prospects for lasting peace and weaken civilian protection,” the report states.

Casualties attributed to State actors and AMISOM

It goes on to note that the number of casualties attributed to the Somali National Army and Police, as well as to AMISOM, was significantly smaller than those attributed to Al Shabaab militants.

“Nevertheless, such casualties are of utmost concern as they undermine the Somali population’s trust in the Government and the international community, which in turn expands the space in which anti-government elements continue to operate,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“While achieving the balance between human rights and security is challenging,” he added, “the respect of human rights and the protection of civilians are essential as the foundation of a strong, legitimate State that works for the benefit of all its people.”

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency routinely disregards international human rights law when carrying out arrests and detentions, according to the report, which adds that journalists and people suspected of belonging to Al Shabaab are often detained without charge.

The report also flags that information on the conditions of people living under Al Shabaab control is scant. Verifying human rights violations and abuses in those areas remains problematic due to the lack of access and fear of reprisals.

Somalia has been plagued by armed violence for decades, as well as poverty, marginalization, natural hazards, insecurity and political instability.

UNSOM is working with the East African country’s authorities to support national reconciliation, provide strategic and policy advice on various aspects of peacebuilding and state-building, monitor and report on the human rights situation, and help coordinate the efforts of the international community.

Human Rights

Somali children abused in anti-insurgency crackdown, families say



Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday al Shabaab Islamists had forcibly recruited thousands of children – some as young as nine – and hundreds have been detained by Somali authorities.

The detentions violate a 2014 agreement by the government to treat child detainees separately and work with the United Nations to rehabilitate them, the HRW report said.

Government ministers for justice and human rights did not respond to requests for comment. The chairman of Somalia’s military courts, Liban Ali Yarow, told Reuters he did not speak to the media.

Clan elder Ugas Mohamed Wali, said his two nephews aged 12 and 13 were arrested on their way to school last year, along with 17 other teenagers. Both boys were jailed for eight years, he said.

“There are many problems in Somalia. Children are seized and arrested if accidentally they are passing near a blast scene,” he said, showing pictures of the two boys on his mobile phone.

“The 17 teenagers were released when they were brought to Mogadishu because they were from rich families. We had no money and so the two kids were taken into the underground cell where they were tortured.”

HRW cited U.N. figures saying Somali security forces arrested 386 children in 2016 during operations targeting al-Shabaab. Many were released after their parents paid bribes or clan elders intervened, but those whose families lacked money or influence were kept.

Authorities have handed over 250 children to the United Nations for rehabilitation since 2015, the report said, but that was often after months of pressure.

“In a justice system that remains heavily reliant on forced confessions, children are not spared,” the report said, adding that children were “threatened and on occasion beaten, at times in ways that amount to torture”.

Fahmo Mantan Warsame told Reuters her 17-year-old son was arrested three years ago and sentenced to 10 years in jail for being a member of al Shabaab and that she had paid a total of $3,700 to various officials to try to free him.

“They ask you money at every door you go to. The one who writes a letter asks for money. The one who claims he will release a child asks for money. Nothing else. And when they have bled you dry, and after they take all money, they switch off their phones,” she said.

Continue Reading

Human Rights

Who Is Responsible for Ending Sexual Violence in Somalia?



GLOBAL VOICES — In October 2017, 16-year-old Faiza Mohamed Abdi was shot in the “pelvic area” for declining the sexual advances of her attacker in the port town of Bosaso, Somalia.

Abdi was brutally wounded by Abdikadir Warsame, a solider with the security forces in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Since December 2017, Faiza has been undergoing treatment in a hospital in Turkey. Radio Dalsan reports:

Faiza was reported to have been attacked by a Puntland state navy soldier who wanted to rape her while she was in Bosaso town but she struggled hard to defend herself from her attacker. On realizing that he can’t succeed in his mission, the soldier who was named as Abdikadir Warsame shot her at the private part leading her to sustain serious injury. She was later moved to Mogadishu for treatment but unfortunately, doctors said that she requires a specialized medical attention that is beyond their level.

Unfortunately, Faiza is not alone. Although some of Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions have made recent attempts to push through anti-rape legislation, a general culture of impunity allows many violators to go unpunished — and tales of rape abound.

Rape in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP)

In Somalia, more than two decades of civil war and famine have forced many people to flee their homes and live in IDP camps. Women and girls who live in camps outside the main cities are the most vulnerable to sexual assault.

They do not have any protection and most rape cases occur in the middle of the night or when they are collecting firewood in remote areas. At the same time, due to the breakdown of the criminal justice system, victims often do not have access to the legal assistance necessary to seek justice.

Fiican, a 45-year-old single mother and Buulo Ba’alay IDP camp resident, was raped in front of her children. She described the event in an interview with GV, stating:

It was a midnight when an armed man with Puntland police uniform cracked my home, took me out by force and raped me. Not only did he rape, he tortured me and left me with severe wound on my body that still cause lot of pain up to now.

The night of Fiican’s assault, men from Puntland Police went to the Bula Bacley IDP camp in the central city of Galkayo. The men broke into tents, taking Fiican and another mother by force. Both women were raped. Unfortunately, the victims have yet to receive justice for the violations they suffered. The assailants were arrested but have neither been charged in court nor sentenced for their crimes.

According to the Puntland Human Right Defenders, 80 rape cases were reported in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland in 2017. The real number of rapes is thought to be much higher because many victims do not speak out due to fear of stigmatization, a lack of trust in the criminal justice system and a lack of prepared health facilities.

Aside from the issues of justice, another obstacle for survivors of sexual assault is the lack of health infrastructure, modern tools, and equipment that are required in this sector. The health system also lacks the qualified personnel to handle rape-related cases.

Local culture can also be an obstacle to justice because of a regional custom which obligates victims to marry their assailants or accept “camels or livestock” as compensation for their assault:

Rape is pervasive and often goes unpunished in much of Somalia, where decades of conflict have fueled a culture of violence and weakened institutions meant to uphold the law. Traditionally, rape victims are forced to accept compensation – often in the form of camels or livestock – and marry their assailants in a centuries-old practice designed to end war between rival clans.

Small steps in the right direction — but is it enough?
On 9 Sept 2017, the semi-autonomous region of Puntland made headlines when it opened the first forensic lab to handle rape cases in the city of Garowe.

The year before, in September 2016, Puntland also became the first administrative region in Somalia to pass an anti-rape law.The House of Parliament voiced resounding support with 42 out of 45 members voting in favor of the bill which was later officially made into law.

On 6 January 2018, the Parliament of self-declared state Somaliland followed Puntland’s lead and also proposed a new anti-rape bill. However, there is still a long way to go before it is passed by the Guurti (House of Elders) and is signed into law.

Although the rape issue has attracted attention from the Somali government as well as the international community in the past years, sexual violence against women and children remains rampant and the number of assault cases continues to grow.

Continue Reading

Human Rights

Somalia: Satellite imagery reveals devastation amid forced evictions of thousands who fled conflict and drought



New satellite imagery analysis by Amnesty International gives the first comprehensive view of how thousands of structures, including several schools, were demolished in sudden forced evictions that left more than 4,000 families homeless on the outskirts of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in late December.

No warning was given before armed men accompanied bulldozers to raze the sites on 29 and 30 December 2017, according to UNICEF and Save the Children. UN agencies have said the forced evictions left more than 24,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) homeless, including 3,000 children.

Amnesty International’s analysis of satellite images from before, during and after the demolitions clearly shows that thousands of structures were turned to rubble over the course of the two-day operation. A UN humanitarian official said that basic infrastructure including latrines, schools and community centres were destroyed.

“These satellite images give a bird’s-eye view of the shocking scale of these forced evictions that destroyed the possessions, dwellings and livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable families,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

These satellite images give a bird’s-eye view of the shocking scale of these forced evictions that destroyed the possessions, dwellings and livelihoods of thousands of vulnerable families.
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“Forced evictions are always a human rights violation and inevitably put people who are already in a very vulnerable situation at even greater risk. What makes these demolitions particularly cruel is that many of the thousands of people affected had only recently sought protection in Mogadishu after fleeing insecurity, drought and impending famine elsewhere in Somalia.”

Continue Reading