Human Rights and Democracy Report 2014: Somalia - in-year update July 2015

Published 15 July 2015


  1. Federal Government of Somalia (south-central)
  2. Somaliland
  3. Puntland

There continues to be limited progress on human rights issues in Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland. The Human Rights Watch 2014 World Report issued in January, and the US State department country report on 25 June, both catalogue abuses in detail.

The conflict in Yemen has resulted in an estimated 17,000 refugees crossing the Gulf of Aden to Somaliland and Puntland (mostly Somalis, with some Yemenis). On 1 June, the Minister of Women & Human Rights Development outlined the Federal Government (FGS) response in mobilising communities and raising funds. However, she warned that the influx was more than the FGS could deal with, despite assistance from the International Organisation for Migration and UN Agencies. So far, the UK has provided, through the Department for International Development (DFID), over £560,000 worth of support, including sanitation, food and onward transportation, reaching 15,000 beneficiaries in Somaliland and Puntland.

1. Federal Government of Somalia (south-central)

A new FGS Cabinet of Ministers was approved by parliament on 9 February. The UK has engaged with the new Minister of Women & Human Rights Development to urge progress on key human rights instruments, such as the human rights road map and the Human Rights Commission. Somalia’s nascent human rights institutions were dealt a major blow on 27 March when their Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council was killed by Al-Shabaab. The humanitarian situation in Somalia remains of concern, with reports of deaths due to famine in the south-west. This is exacerbated by Al-Shabaab blockades and ambushes on food convoys. DFID will provide £40 million of humanitarian support in 2015.

The Somali parliament passed a law, on 11 February, to form a National Independent Electoral Commission; this will be key to organising legislative and presidential elections in 2016. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) released their annual report on the state of press freedom in Somalia on 13 January. It reports the murder of five media workers in 2014, with seven journalists injured, 47 journalists arrested and five media houses attacked. Media outlets, such as Radio Risaala and Radio Goobjoog, continue to face official sanction. Staff of the Shabelle Media Network have also been subject to delays in trials, raids, and equipment seizures by the security services. On 30 April, Al-Shabaab killed Daud Ali Omar, a Radio Baidoa reporter, along with his wife and a neighbour. In January, Reine Alapini-Gansou, of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), participated in a Mogadishu conference involving human rights defenders from across Somalia, as well as ministers, officials and the international community.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud disbanded the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on 11 March. He has urged cabinet and parliament to expedite the creation of a new commission. A Cabinet-approved shortlist of members for the JSC was rejected by parliament on 27 June. The Minster for Justice, Abdullahi Ahmed Jama, is now expected to re-table a reviewed list on 7 July. The UK fully supports a speedy resolution.

Amnesty International’s annual report on the Death Penalty identifies at least 14 executions carried out in Somalia in 2014, with many other death sentences handed down. On 2 March, two soldiers were sentenced to death, by court martial, for the murder of civilians. On 6 April, a Mogadishu military court handed down death sentences to Shu’ayb Ibrahim Mahdi, 27, and Farah Ali Abdi, 30. Both were given a month to lodge appeals against the verdict, but it was further reported, on 13 May, that they had been executed. It was reported that Siraj Abdullahi Umar, a member of Al-Shabaab, was executed by firing squad on 19 May. Two Somali National Army soldiers were sentenced to death on 16 June; Muhammad Abdullahi Muhammad had been convicted of killing a government soldier, and Aydiid Farah Sheikh Ahmad Kadare of killing two civilians. The UK continues to work to improve the operations of Somalia’s courts, while maintaining our firm opposition to the death penalty. Al-Shabaab continues to execute civilians throughout Somalia.

The Somali Attorney General, Ahmad Ali Dahir, has criticised conditions in the country’s prisons. He raised concern over lack of healthcare services, shelter and food. The UK has provided £1.5 million for the rehabilitation of prisons in Somalia. On 15 June, a centre for the rehabilitation of former Al-Shabaab members opened in Mogadishu, the first of its kind in the capital.

Following the Al-Shabaab attack on Garrisa University, Kenya, on 2 April, concerns grew around Kenyan government plans to close the Somali refugee camp at Dadaab. The UK welcomes the UN High Commission for Refugees, Kenyan government, and FGS discussions on the future of the camp and related issues, such as mechanisms for refugees to receive remittances.

Dahabo Abdi (alias Dahabo Udd) announced on 12 April that she will run for the Presidency of the central Galmudug Regional State, making her the first ever Somali women to contest such a position. The current constitution grants women 30% of political leadership roles. The IIDA Women’s Development Organisation and Minority Rights Group report “No One Cries for Them” was published in January. The report details the continued marginalisation and vulnerability of minority women in Somalia.

At a panel discussion on sexual violence in Somalia on 3 March, UN Special Representative Nicholas Kay and African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Special Representative, Maman S. Sidikou, made a joint call for increased protection of Somalia’s women and girls. Responding to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by AMISOM personnel, the AU released key findings and recommendations from an independent investigation on 21 April. The UK has urged the AU Commission and troop contributing countries to take action on these. The UK will continue to fund, in 2015-2016, a project to promote rights and protect women in three areas of Mogadishu, directly supporting the FGS National Action Plan on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The UK continues to press the AU and AMISOM on the obligation to implement civilian casualty tracking and reporting, and also to work with the FGS to enshrine the protection of human rights in the development of the Somali National Army. Violence flared between the Liyu police, an Ethiopian paramilitary unit operating in Ethiopia’s ethnic Somali region, and clan militia from the Galguduud region of Somalia with over 50 reported dead.

On 12 March, Amnesty launched a report on people with disabilities in Somalia. It highlights vulnerability to forced marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse, and lack of property and social rights. In response, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud hosted people with disabilities to discuss their challenges, and promised government action to address them.

On 20 January, Somalia became the 194th state party to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This followed consistent lobbying on the issue by UK ministers in 2014.

2. Somaliland

On 24 January, the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) condemned the re-suspension of HUBAAL Media Group. Local media contends that nearly 20 journalists have been arbitrarily detained by Somaliland authorities over the last two years. The UK is considering how we can promote better relations between Somaliland authorities and local media.

Somaliland executed six convicted murderers by firing squad on 13 April, ending a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, thought to have held since 1991. The EU condemned the move, and the UK raised concerns directly with the Somaliland administration. There have been no further executions. Somaliland authorities, on April 18, detained Guleid Ahmed Jama, chair of the Human Rights Centre, seemingly for criticising the executions. He was released on 6 May, though the charges against him were not dropped. The UK, and the international community, continue to monitor his case closely.

3. Puntland

On 12 March, an independent Human Rights Defenders’ office was established in Puntland; it aims to defend basic rights, and monitor and investigate human rights practices. Reports, on 15 February, that a military court in Puntland handed down death sentences to our alleged Al-Shabaab members, are concerning.