Major military offensives by AMISOM and tactical withdrawals by Al-Shabaab have led to territorial gains for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and created opportunities for greater engagement by the international community. While South Central Somalia remains under the control of armed extremists, activities can be carried out in Mogadishu, as well as Mogadishu and the autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland, which enjoy a relative degree of stability.
Somalia has suffered a human rights crisis for the last 20 years, characterized by serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The protection of civilians in the context of the armed conflict, combined with impunity and lack of accountability, is of major concern. The lack of rule of law and the climate of insecurity has created an environment in which certain categories of professionals, such as journalists and judges, are increasingly targeted for extrajudicial killings. An entire generation has grown up with access to education and the country as a whole suffers from a lack of knowledge about human rights. Women and children’s rights are routinely violated.
The collapse of the humanitarian situation has further aggravated the human rights crisis and resulted in massive displacement of Somalis from the Southern regions into TFG-controlled territories and across the borders into Ethiopia and Kenya. The vulnerability of the displaced has raised acute protection concerns. In the margins of the 18th session of the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has advocated for a human rights based approach to the immediate, medium and long-term strategies for addressing the food crisis.
The adoption of the Kampala Accord in June 2011 resulted in the adoption of a Roadmap to End the Transition in September 2011. The Roadmap identifies security, progress in adoption of the Constitution, national outreach, reconciliation and good governance as priority areas against which the transitional authorities will be assessed in August 2012.
In 2011, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights facilitated Somalia’s engagement in the Universal Period Review of the Human Rights Council. Somalia accepted, fully or in partial, all 155 recommendations formulated by Member States for the improvement of its human rights situation. These recommendations cover a wide range of issues, such as the political process, peace and reconciliation, the protection of civilians in the context of the armed conflict, ratification of international human rights instruments, the development of human rights-compliant legislative and policy frameworks, including at the level of the Constitution, the establishment of a national human rights institution, and the strengthening of civilian police and the judiciary, among others. The UPR recommendations provide a comprehensive roadmap for improving the human rights situation in Somalia.
The role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
The work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Somalia is guided by the following resolutions of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council: S/RES/1814 (2008), S/RES/1872 (2009), S/RES/1863 (2009), A/HRC/RES/7/35 (2008), A/HRC/RES/10/32 (2009), A/HRC/RES/12/26 2009, A/HRC/RES/15/28 (2010) and A/HRC/RES/17/L.14 (2011).
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supports the Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia appointed by the Human Rights Council.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights implements its Somalia programme through the Human Rights Unit of the UN Political Mission for Somalia (UNPOS) which was established in 1995 to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation in Somalia. The Human Rights Unit was created in 2008 with a broad mandate to carry out monitoring and capacity-building, as well as to mainstream human rights within the activities of the UN Country Team for Somalia. The Human Rights Unit consists of seven international professionals deployed to Mogadishu, Garowe (Puntland), Hargeisa (Somaliland) and Nairobi.
The following initiatives were undertaken by the Human Rights Unit in 2011:
- Translation of core human rights treaties and UPR documentation into Somali language.
- Developing an advanced human rights curriculum for judicial staff and training judicial instructors from across Somalia on human rights.
- Facilitating a human rights review of the draft Constitution, in collaboration with the Ministry for Constitutional Affairs, with the participation of civil society representatives.
- Documenting sexual violence in camps for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu.
- Mainstreaming human rights in security sector development by advocating in relevant working groups for the protection of civilians, the accountability of security forces, and the treatment of ex-combatants in accordance with human rights law.
- Strengthening the national human rights protection system by providing technical advice on legislation and advancing the creation of regional human rights institutions in Somaliland and Puntland.
- Training correction officers in Somaliland on human rights and rule of law.
- Training staff from legal aid clinics in Somaliland on human rights.
- Assisting Puntland authorities with the development of a policy on internally displaced persons in line with international standards.
- Participating in pre-deployment trainings for troop-contributing countries to AMISOM.
- Facilitating visits by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia as well as a visit by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in December 2011.
The Human Rights Unit of UNPOS contributes to the quarterly Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, the Secretary-General’s report on Piracy and the annual report of the Secretary-General on Violence against Women in Conflict.
The Office of the High Commissioner has identified the following thematic priorities for its Somalia programme in 2012-2013:
- Combating impunity and strengthening accountability, the rule of law, and democratic societies, with an emphasis on institution and capacity building.
- Protecting human rights in situations of violence and insecurity, with a focus on the protection of civilians, internally displaced persons and journalists.
- Countering discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against women and ethnic minorities.
- Supporting the signature, ratification and implementation of human rights treaties and facilitating Somalia’s effective cooperation with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
- Raising awareness about economic and social rights.