An independent United Nations expert today urged Somalia’s authorities to restore a legitimate justice system in the capital, Mogadishu, and in the country’s southern and central regions, with assistance from the international community.
“Strengthening access to justice and rule of law in the country is crucial to protect and promote the fundamental rights of the Somali people,” said the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, in a news release, issued following a visit in April.
“Re-establishing a legitimate justice system in Mogadishu and South-Central Somalia presents a major challenge, but also an opportunity for the international community,” he said. “A specific and coordinated assessment of the justice and corrections sectors and the development of a nationally-owned strategy for the reestablishment of a functioning apparatus are urgently needed.”
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Mr. Bari voiced concern over what he described as “total collapse of the institutions for law enforcement and the administration of justice,” especially in Mogadishu and the south-central region.
He pointed out that threats, intimidation and attacks against judicial personnel are an almost daily occurrence in those areas and that the lack of personnel, equipment, infrastructure and poor professional training had made the judiciary in Somalia a “virtually paralyzed entity.”
“The inclusion of the justice and corrections sectors in the security sector pillar has to some extent contributed to this state of affairs,” said Mr. Bari.
Until last year, most of Mogadishu was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government, with the latter supported by the peacekeeping forces from the African Union. Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital’s central parts in August, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s outskirts. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.
The Independent Expert said that the harmonisation of customary law and the Islamic Shari’a law with modern law and international human rights law presents another major challenge for the administration of justice in Somalia.
“Women have little access to redress in cases of rape or domestic violence. Reports on these abuses are usually handled through customary justice processes which resolve the conflict between families or clans rather than seeking justice for the victim,” he noted. “This may lead to sentencing that forces a rape victim to marry the rapist.”
While in Mogadishu, Mr. Bari met Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. He also went to Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, as well as Garowe and Bossasso in Puntland state.