Progress, Challenges and Needs in Somalia’s Human Rights Highlighted in Visit of UN Independent Expert
NNN: The human rights situation in Somalia was in the spotlight last week with the first visit by the UN Independent Expert on the issue, ending with her noting progress and challenges, as well as calling for more support for human rights in the country. .
“I urge the international community not to waver in its support, at this last stage, when stability is becoming more and more a reality in Somalia,” the independent expert on the human rights situation told a press conference today. humans in Somalia, Isha Dyfan. in the capital, Mogadishu, during which she shared some preliminary observations and recommendations on some key issues.
“I call on the international community to continue its assistance to Somalia to strengthen federal and member state institutions, in particular security and justice institutions, as well as the health system,” he added, “and address the adverse impact of climate change. on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights, guaranteeing access to basic social services, including drinking water, sanitation facilities, housing and health education for all children, in particular girls.
The Independent Expert was speaking at the end of a week-long visit to Somalia. It was her first since being appointed in May 2020 by the UN Human Rights Council to the position, which involves assessing, monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the Horn of Africa country, with a view to making recommendations on technical assistance and capacity building.
Travel restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic had prevented him from visiting before.
“In light of this and the ongoing electoral process, I chose to focus my first visit on economic, social and cultural rights as they relate to the benchmarks and indicators in my second report to the UN Human Rights Council. UN,” said Ms. Dyfan. .
During her stay in Mogadishu, the Independent Expert met with the Federal Minister for Women’s Development and Human Rights, Hanifa Mohamed Ibrahim, and the Federal Minister of Justice, Hassan Hussein Haji, as well as representatives of humanitarian organizations and the civil society, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and UN agencies, funds and programmes.
He also visited the city of Baidoa, in the Federal Member State of the South West State, where he met with its president Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen’ and other high-ranking officials and civil society representatives.
In her comments to the media, the Independent Expert noted how problems of insecurity, conflict and recurrent drought due to climate change continue to increase the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, as well as severe food and water shortages.
“To this end, the Federal Government and humanitarian partners are implementing the 2021 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan and pre-positioning food, water and non-food items to support internally displaced populations in Baidoa and other areas of the country.” said Ms. Dyfan pointed out.
The independent expert noted how access to health care remains dangerously low in the country. He cited the example that Mogadishu has only one public hospital and people often have to seek health care services at private health centers and pay large amounts out of their own pocket for medical treatment.
“As a result, only a few people can afford these services, leading to high infant and maternal mortality. Therefore, I urge the Government to expand the provision of public health services, in light of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and increase the financing of its health system”, said the independent expert.
He also urged the authorities to advance efforts to eliminate child, early and forced marriage and to protect the rights of girls in vulnerable positions, as such marriages contribute to extraordinarily high population growth and have negative health consequences.
Ms. Dyfan pointed out how the treatment and conditions in Somali prisons are below international standards and the death penalty remains a legal penalty. She urged the federal government to end all executions and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.
“Despite the enormity of these challenges,” he added, “the Government has strengthened its regulatory and institutional frameworks to address the promotion and protection of human rights, including in the area of the rule of law and the administration of justice.”
In this regard, the Independent Expert also highlighted the country’s alternative dispute resolution centers. These have been established to handle small civil cases, including family issues, land and property rights, with a view to addressing gaps in the justice sector and improving citizens’ access to justice.
“The alternative dispute resolution model, funded by international partners, complements the judicial process and is credited with resolving a large number of cases through the application of Islamic and customary law,” said Ms. Dyfan.
The ongoing parliamentary elections in Somalia were also noted in the Independent Expert’s comments. He emphasized that women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy.
“However, from discussions, I was informed that the 30 percent minimum quota for women’s representation during the ongoing electoral process is not being met, suggesting more work needs to be done now for the upcoming elections. ”, said Mrs. Dyfan, in addition to calling on the Federal Government to ensure that the female participation quota is achieved in the remaining seats.
“I also urge the government to ensure diversity and inclusion, which focuses on equal treatment and equal opportunities for marginalized and minority groups,” he added.
Somalia’s media sector also participated in the press conference, with the independent expert noting that the right to freedom of expression and opinion is essential to the functioning of any democracy. In this regard, he noted concerns about the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists by security personnel throughout the country.
“I want to reiterate the importance of respecting the right to freedom of expression and opinion. I recommend that laws and policies, the ambiguity of which has been used to criminalize journalists for their legitimate work, be reviewed with a view to ensuring that their content and execution comply with the rule of law and other international human rights standards,” said Ms. Dyfan.
She added that she was encouraged by the launch of a legal assistance unit by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to provide legal protection to journalists. The program focuses on ensuring that lawyers are equipped with the necessary tools to promote fundamental rights related to press freedom, based on international and regional legal standards.
Ms. Dyfan said that she will elaborate her preliminary observations and recommendations into a full report for the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly later this year.
Independent experts like Ms. Dyfan are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the umbrella name for the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts of the Special Procedures work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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