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Somalia launches State rights task force against impunity

Friday, February 08, 2013

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MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon on Tuesday announced the launching of a human rights task force to deal with human rights abuses in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement from the office of the Somali prime minister said the new body was established after consultations with the speaker of the Parliament and members of civil society groups.

The 13-member body is tasked investigate the broadest range of human rights abuses, including the organized killing of journalists and sexual violence against women.

The Somali government says members of the Independent Task Force on Human Rights include a human rights defense lawyer, civil society activist, human rights campaigner, a doctor, a religious leader, distinguished police officers and a representative from the media.

The task force which has four female members and is headed by a woman will have a three-month mandate, and will at the end of its mandate, issue a public report detailing its findings and recommendations, the prime minister’s office said.

“We will not hesitate to take the appropriate action, however tough that may prove. This is all about instituting accountability and showing that nobody is above the law. Where it is found that crimes have been committed, we will seek to press charges,” the Somali prime minister said at the launching of the task force.

“Today we want to send the strongest message that human rights abuses have no place in today’s Somalia. It won’t happen overnight, but we must consign them to history,” he added.

The prime minister vowed to do everything in his power to promote freedom of expression and that he was “committed to defend journalist’s rights to do their work, including the investigation of any human rights abuses.”

“It cannot be right that Somali journalists should routinely risk death just for doing their work, which is an essential pillar of a modern society. The simple and unpalatable truth is that for all the journalists who have been killed in Somalia, there has never been a single prosecution.

“That is unacceptable in any civilized society. Everyone knows we must do better and this is my pledge to you today,” said Prime Minister Shirdon referring upsurge in killing of journalists last year.

The announcement comes after a woman who alleges to have been gang raped by government security forces and a journalist was sentenced to one year in jail each for “false reporting and for offending the honor of a state institution.”

The prime minister said the new task force specifically would be investigating allegations of widespread rape and sexual abuse, especially of women in internally displaced people’s camps. It would also be investigating the background to a court case against alleged rape victim and a journalist who interviewed her “to review whether due process had been followed.”


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