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Human rights situation in Somalia deteriorating, UN rights expert says

Human rights situation in Somalia deteriorating, UN rights expert says

The human right situation in Somalia is deteriorating as hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes while others are being subject to threats, rape and violence in the war-torn East African nation, a United Nations expert said today.

Ghanim Alnajjar, the Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the current circumstances in the country are much worse than they were when he last briefed the 47-member body in September 2006.

There have been widespread reports of indiscriminate artillery fire in the capital Mogadishu between December 2006 and April 2007, he said, and the wounded were blocked from fleeing or receiving aid and protection while the delivery of urgent relief supplies was impeded.

Thousands of people are estimated to have been killed or injured during that period, and the UN has assessed that approximately 400,000 people had been forced from their homes in Mogadishu by the violence between February and May of this year, he noted.

Additionally, Mr. Alnajjar said that there are 400,000 more who are internally displaced and spread out throughout Somalia. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) exposed to being threatened, intimidated, robbed, assaulted and raped, and many of them are forced to take refuge in crowded camps where there is a paucity of water, food, sanitation, basic health services and shelter.

Widespread harassment continued to plague human rights defenders, he said, often leading to targeted killings of such defenders, journalists, aid workers and public figures.

Due to the violence, women and girls are now more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, the Independent Expert said, and some children have been recruited as soldiers while school enrolment has dipped considerably.

Mr. Alnajjar appealed to the international community to support Somali leaders and the country’s civil society to bolster human rights protections, and called on the UN to press the Transitional Federal Institutions to protect the population. Both the UN and the Government must step up their efforts to address the immediate human needs and protect the rights of the hundreds of thousands of displaced, he said.

In another report presented to the Council, Yash Ghai, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia, said that despite progress made in rebuilding the country after decades of civil war, problems – such as the courts being used by the Government to punish its opponents, impunity for the wealthy and politically well-connected and rampant corruption – still persist.

Speaking as a concerned country, the representative from Cambodia, Chheang Vun, rejected the accusations the country saw Mr. Ghai having levelled against it, saying that his report only dealt with negative issues and obscured efforts to consolidate democracy and freedom of expression. The representative asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reconsider his position vis-à-vis Mr. Ghai.

In its afternoon session, the Council also heard the report by Louis Joinet, the Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haiti.

Earlier in the day, the body wrapped up its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food; the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living; and the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty.

The fifth session of the Human Rights Council, created to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights, will conclude on 18 June.