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UN rights expert urges re-establishment of legitimate justice system in Mogadishu and South Central Somalia

GENEVA (2 May 2012) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, today urged the Somali authorities and the international community to re-establish a legitimate justice system in Mogadishu and South Central Somalia. “Strengthening access to justice and rule of law in the country is crucial to protect and promote the fundamental rights of the Somali people,” Mr. Bari said after his eighth field visit from 15 to 25 April 2012.

“Re-establishing a legitimate justice system in Mogadishu and South Central Somalia presents a major challenge, but also an opportunity for the international community,” the human rights expert noted. “A specific and coordinated assessment of the justice and corrections sectors and the development of a nationally-owned strategy for the reestablishment of a functioning apparatus are urgently needed.”

“I am deeply concerned about the total collapse of the institutions for law enforcement and the administration of justice, in particular in Mogadishu and the South-Central region,” he stressed. “Threats, intimidation and attacks against judicial personnel are an almost daily occurrence. Lack of personnel, equipment, and infrastructure, and poor professional training make the judiciary in Somalia a virtually paralyzed entity. The inclusion of the justice and corrections sectors in the security sector pillar has to some extent contributed to this state of affairs.”

According to the UN Independent Expert, the harmonisation of customary law and Shari’a law with modern law and international human rights law presents another major challenge for the administration of justice in Somalia. “Women, internally displaced persons and minorities suffer particularly from the lack of access to justice and due process,” Mr. Bari said.

“Women have little access to redress in cases of rape or domestic violence. Reports on these abuses are usually handled through customary justice processes (Xeer) which resolve the conflict between families or clans rather than seeking justice for the victim,” he noted. “This may lead to sentencing that forces a rape victim to marry the rapist.”

During his eleven-day mission, the human rights expert visited Mogadishu, where he met the Prime Minister of the TFG, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. He also visited the cities of Hargeisa in Somaliland, and Garowe and Bossasso in Puntland. In Garowe, he was invited by the President of the Puntland State of Somalia, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, to participate in the ceremony for the ratification of the transitional Constitution of Puntland by the regional constituent Assembly.

Mr. Bari welcomed progress made by the TFG towards the implementation of the Roadmap to End the Transition. A key priority of the roadmap is the adoption of a new Constitution for Somalia and the election of new federal institutions by August 2012. However, he noted that there are still “serious challenges ahead which, if not handled carefully, may derail the process.”

In Somaliland, the Independent Expert was encouraged by the launch of a National Strategy for Justice by the Somaliland authorities with UN and OHCHR’s assistance, although he regretted that the interest of the international community seemed to prioritize the detention of pirates rather than supporting the development of the justice and corrections sectors as a whole.

In Puntland, he focused also on the areas of justice and corrections, conveying his concern over a string of attacks on judges and prosecutors. “In recent months, seven of them were assassinated and three were victims of assassination attempts, a trend which has seriously affected the rule of law and administration of justice in Puntland.”

“I am appalled by the terrible prison conditions in Somalia,” said Mr. Bari, who visited several centers of detention during his mission. “Detention conditions are close to inhumane, frequently lacking water and sanitation. Ventilation is poor with only small slits for windows. Prisons are overcrowded with boiling temperatures. Inmates sleep on the bare floor as they are not provided with any sleeping mats or beddings.

The rights expert noted that the principle of separation between juveniles and adults, criminals and others is not always respected: “The majority of the inmates in Puntland and Mogadishu are accused of serious crimes, like murder, piracy, or are detained because of their alleged affiliation Al-Shabaab.”

“In a significant number of cases, detentions appear to be either unlawful or arbitrary, with prisoners detained without a legal basis, in violation of international and national procedural protections,” he said. Mr. Bari was also shocked to find some women and girls detained for “disobedience vis-à-vis their parents or husband.”

The Independent Expert welcomed the cooperation between Somali authorities and the Human Rights Unit of the UN Political Office for Somalia. Access has been granted to the Unit to monitor detention facilities and training on human rights standards has started.

“But, more needs to be done,” said Mr. Bari, who urged “the national and regional authorities, with the support of the international community and the UN, to step up efforts so that inmates and convicts are treated with humanity and dignity, in compliance with international human rights standards.”

At the London Conference on Somalia in February, Somali and world leaders underlined that human rights should be at the heart of the peace process and rebuilding of Somalia. Mr. Bari appealed to the international community, including the UN, to prioritize the development of the rule of law, in particular the judiciary and corrections sectors by increasing financial and technical assistance.

The UN Independent Expert also underlined the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Al-Shabaab fighters and called for the development of a legal and policy framework for operations by security forces, as well as solid governance, vetting and oversight mechanisms, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1910 of 2010.

Dr. Shamsul Bari (Bangladesh) was appointed Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

Check the Independent Expert’s latest report to the UN General Assembly (29 August 2011): http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/155/91/PDF/G1115591.pdf?OpenElement

OHCHR Country Page – Somalia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SOIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Idrissa Kane (+ 41 22 928 9810 / ikane@ohchr.org) or write to ie-somalia@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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