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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Remarks by Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at the London Somalia conference (London, 11 May 2017)

Situation in Somalia

12 May 2017

There has been undeniable progress in Somalia, thanks to the heroic efforts of AMISOM, the new Government, and significant international support. But there are still major human rights problems in the country, largely due to the horrific abuses by Al Shabab.

This meeting is about a Somalia strategy for peace, security, and stability. But I hope human rights can feature there too. After all, the lessons we have learned, individually and collectively, from South Sudan, Iraq and other places is that when there is a transitional government that receives international support but the international community does not press for that government to comply with its human rights obligations, the results can be disastrous.

There is a dangerous myth that human rights and security are inversely proportional; that somehow repressing rights and freedoms brings greater security. But all the evidence suggests the exact opposite. It is not human rights that are the friends of terrorists; rather the friends of terrorists are human rights violations, since it is these that foster grievances and swell the ranks of terrorists.

The strategy we are considering today envisages "accountable and acceptable" Somali National Forces. This is good. But the Somalis are not the only forces operating in Somalia today. There is also AMISOM and indeed others. What we are pushing for is further cooperation between AMISOM and its troop contributors, and the UN, to strengthen measures to prevent violations.

We are also pushing for accountability. There is a tendency to treat accountability as an optional luxury: nice in an ideal world, but "too difficult" in this one. But we hope that this meeting can underline the importance of accountability - and not just financial accountability but also accountability for human rights violations.

So I would urge that the outcome document of this meeting should have us not just "standing ready" or "recognizing the need" to support human rights. But actually say "we commit" to grounding our various initiatives in human rights. That way we would show the Somali people that finally there is an international effort to really achieve civilians' protection in their country.