Somalia: UN expert urges Government to ramp up efforts in securing human rights legislation

13 December 2014

Somalia's Government and the international community must work to strengthen the country's rule of law institutions and safeguard its full transition to peace, stability and democracy, a United Nations human rights expert urged today.

“The Federal Government together with the international community need to allocate adequate resources to strengthen the rule of law institutions and ensure that the interim regional administrations benefit from the New Deal Compact for Somalia,” Bahame Tom Nyanduga, a UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the East African nation, said in a press release as he ended his first official visit to the war-ravaged nation.

“The Government should also ratify key international human rights instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW],” the expert added.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN 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 UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Mr. Nyanduga's visit came as Somalia's political establishment reels from the recent parliamentary vote of “no confidence” resulting in the political ouster of Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed on 6 December. Mr. Ahmed was reportedly involved in a long-standing political dispute with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud over political appointments.

At the same time, the country has been plagued by broader political infighting and outbursts of extremist violence as the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, continues to wage a simmering insurgency. Most recently, in the city of Baidoa, a terrorist attack left at least fifteen people dead with many more wounded.

While he praised the Federal Government for its adoption of a National Action Plan to combat sexual violence, the UN expert also expressed concern at the capacity and resource constraints which, he said, were slowing progress in strengthening the country's judicial institutions and were contributing to the “pervasive role of military courts trying civilians.” He also called on the Government to uphold its commitment made under the Universal Periodic Review – a Member State-driven, UN-backed human rights monitoring process – to placing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, according to the press release.

In addition, the Mr. Nyanduga urged the Federal Government to ensure that it incorporates international human rights standards and principles when adopting legislation and called for the speedy adoption of a bill establishing a national human rights institution.

“I also call on the authorities to ensure that the media are allowed their right to freedom of expression as well as to ensure the safety of journalists,” he continued. “It is imperative for the media to exercise professionalism and responsible media reporting.”

Mr. Nyanduga's eight-day trip took him across Somalia with stops in the capital, Mogadishu, as well as in Kismayo, Garowe and Hargeisa, where he met with local officials and members of civil society.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

‘World must act now’ to avert repeat of devastating famine in Somalia – UN expert

A United Nations human rights expert today urged the international community to “act now” to avert a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, where a widening hunger crisis has sparked fears of a repeat of the 2011 famine that devastated the war-ravaged country.