Somalia: UN expert says respect for human rights is key to stability

8 February 2005

The United Nations Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia has called on the new Transitional Federal Government to ensure long-term stability of the Horn of Africa country by incorporating international human rights standards into the rebuilding of its war-shattered institutions.

Ghanim Alnajjar's 13-day visit, which ended yesterday, took him to the tsunami-stricken peninsula of Hafun, as well as the villages of Bossaso and Garowe in the northeastern area known as Puntland, and Hargeisa in the northwest, or Somaliland. Both areas declared their independence, but have not been internationally recognized.

During his travels he discussed with the authorities, civil society organizations and representatives of the international community such issues as women's and children's rights, prison conditions, the rule of law, the establishment of independent human rights commissions and the situation of internally displaced persons.

He called for the release of everyone imprisoned in Puntland and Somaliland in connection with disputes over the control of the Sool and Sanaag areas.

A high point of his trip was to escort 17-year-old Zamzam Ahmed Dualeh home to Puntland after she was released from prison in Somaliland. She was arrested there last August on charges of spying and was sentenced in December to five years in prison. Dr. Alnajjar offered help with any legal action Ms. Dualeh might choose to take.

Dr. Alnajjar expressed his satisfaction that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Somaliland were pursuing two former Somali officials, now living in the United States, who have been accused of war crimes.

He also agreed with Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a must, after millions of Somalis had lost relatives, livelihoods, or both and now needed redress.

Dr. Alnajjar also talked about the damage to the coastline and coastal waters by both the recent Indian Ocean tsunami and illegal foreign fishing.

He was on his fourth annual visit since being appointed to the job in June 2001 and will report on his findings to the 53-member UN Commission on Human Rights.


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