Geneva, 27 September 2007: - - After his five-day mission to Somalia and Nairobi, Kenya, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Ghanim Alnajjar, remains deeply concerned about extreme violence in Somalia, attacks and threats against the media, lack of humanitarian access, and the apparent lack of the separation of powers in the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) of Somalia.
Between 17 and 21 September 2007, Mr. Alnajjar met with various staff of the United Nations, representatives of the international community, Somali civil society, clan and tribal leaders, as well as senior officials of the Transitional Federal Institutions. He was also able to hold meetings with the newly-appointed Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould Abdallah.
These meetings underscored the continued deterioration in the human rights situation of Somalia. Civilians faced severe violations by all parties to the conflict including of the right to life, disappearance, torture, recruitment as child combatants, and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as continued obstacles to the right to food, health and education. The humanitarian needs of the civilian population, including now more than 700,000 internally displaced persons and threats and attacks on aid workers were also discussed, with the Expert underlining once again the importance of preserving humanitarian space.
The Expert also received updates about the apparent increase in the number of “boat people” crossing the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. This practice continues with hundreds of people perishing each season. The Expert said, “I find it unacceptable that life for some Somalis appears so devoid of hope and respect for basic human rights. The desperation of their situation is reflected in the hundreds of people who risk their lives in this perilous crossing. I am aware that United Nations agencies have launched a project to address this mixed migration, and I call on international community to mobilise funds for this important work.”
Like far too many Somalis, journalists and human rights defenders also continued to live in an increasing climate of fear and intimidation. Since January 2007, seven journalists had been killed and dozens more threatened into silence for their work. Several had fled Mogadishu. Mr. Alnajjar condemned this and the recent armed attack on Radio Shabelle, and urged an investigation into all these threats, attacks and killings on the media and the prompt re-opening of Radio Shabelle.
During the final day of his mission, the Expert also learned of the arrest of the President of the Supreme Court, Yusuf Ali Harun, and another judge of the supreme court well as the subsequent dismissals of the Attorney-General, Abdullahi Dahir and his deputy. The Expert condemns these decisions taken in disregard of rules and procedures and as clearly violating the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.
The Expert was able to experience similar arbitrary action first-hand when he was prevented from disembarking the plane in Baidoa on 17 September, despite prior authorization. “I appreciate all the apologies received after this incident; however, it does highlight for me the clear deficiencies in institutional structures in Somalia. There is some good progress being made with respect to police training and establishing the rule of law but there’s still a very long way to go,” Mr Alnajjar said. Noting these shortcomings, the Expert emphasises the building of key state institutions, with the rule of law and human rights as their cornerstone.
The Expert visited Mogadishu on 20 September, where he met with President Yusuf, Prime Minister Gedi and Hawiye clan elders to discuss a number of human rights issues, including ratification of key human rights instruments, discrimination and the establishment of an independent national human rights institution. He urged the TFIs to actively pursue the integration of international human rights norms and standards into the reconstruction of its executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The Expert remains concerned about the potential negative effects in Somalia of a conflict between neighbouring countries. He takes note of new calls for the Security Council to establish a United Nations peacekeeping operation for Somalia, in an effort to further stabilise the country and allow for a phased withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia. The Expert is supportive of a peacekeeping operation provided that it will have a mandate to assist in the protection of civilians and that it will feature a significant human rights component.
Finally, during his mission, Mr. Alnajjar was also briefed about the intense violence and allegations of serious violations of human rights which had occurred in Mogadishu over the past nine months. As he has done in the past, he strongly urged for the investigation of all human rights abuses committed in Somalia, past and present. He also called for justice and accountability, so that Somalia’s fragile peace will not be built on impunity.