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UN Human Rights Expert concludes visit to Somalia, highlights progress and challenges

Hassan Istiila
Thursday May 9, 2024

Mogadishu (HOL) - The United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Somalia, Ms. Isha Dyfan, has concluded her five-day visit to Somalia, marking her third official visit to the country since her appointment by the Human Rights Council in May 2020.

During her visit, Ms. Dyfan engaged with Somali government officials, UN representatives, and key international and regional partners to assess the human rights situation in the country.

In a press conference held in Mogadishu on Thursday, she discussed the progress achieved by the Government since her last visit in November 2023, as well as the challenges encountered in promoting and protecting human rights in Somalia.

The discussions focused on the constitutional review process, legislative and institutional developments, the protection of civilians in the light of the ATMIS drawdown as well as violations of the rights of women and children. The humanitarian, economic and social situation as well as progress on the key benchmarks and indicators outlined in her previous reports were also discussed.

Ms. Isha Dyfan commended the Somali government for the successful vote on amendments to the first four chapters of the Provisional Constitution of the Federal Government of Somalia by members of the bicameral federal parliament. However, she expressed concerns about the lack of consensus among political actors regarding the changes. 

“I call on all parties to prioritize dialogue to build consensus to safeguard these positive developments towards enhancing the promotion of democracy, rule of law and human rights in Somalia,” she said.

She welcomed provisions in the amended constitution, particularly those related to the age of majority and the full prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM) while calling upon authorities to ensure that any future amendments to the constitution adhere strictly to Somalia's international obligations and human rights principles.

The Independent Expert also urged the Federal Parliament to ensure the inclusion of a political agreement on women’s quota and specific mechanisms to protect women's rights in the text. She highlighted recent initiatives such as the localization of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security at the state levels and the establishment of a women's committee to represent women's interests in national decision-making processes.

On the legislative front, Ms. Dyfan noted the government's commitment to passing bills related to offenses of rape and indecency, juvenile justice, national disability, and child rights. She emphasized the importance of addressing key pending legislation, such as the Penal Code, Civil Code, and Anti-Trafficking bills, to achieve comprehensive legal and institutional reforms.

She strongly condemned the continued deadly al-Shabab attacks and urged the government to take all necessary steps to protect civilians. She also discussed the endemic problem of sexual and gender-based violence, emphasizing the need to strengthen the capacity for investigation and prosecution of such crimes and ensure a safe environment for victims and survivors.

“I reiterated the need to take all necessary measures to strengthen capacity for investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence and to promote a safe environment where victims and survivors can report crimes without any fears of reprisals or stigma and to ensure that victims are protected, have access to justice and effective remedies”

Ms. Dyfan highlighted initiatives by the Federal Government to protect the rights of children during armed conflicts, including measures to prevent their recruitment and use as soldiers. However, she underscored the challenges facing vulnerable communities, such as forced eviction and inadequate clearance of mines and hazardous materials, putting children at risk.

According to humanitarian and protection stakeholders, 4 million children are affected by the conflict situation as well as the impact of climate change. Children represent 60 to 70 % of the IDP and other vulnerable populations. 

The Independent Expert underlined that the most important challenges faced by vulnerable communities include forced eviction and its impact on children as well as inadequate clearing of mines and hazardous materials in liberated areas that put children at risk. It was also reported that there is limited access to hard-to-reach areas to provide services to vulnerable populations.

She pledged to continue to follow up on developments on the protection of minority and marginalized groups and persons with disabilities, despite the National Disability Bill being debated in Parliament. 

According to the government reports, the drafting of the National Digital Inclusion Policy emphasizes the recognition and support of marginalized groups within Somalia, including women, youth, rural communities, the urban poor, the elderly, people with disabilities, internally displaced persons, refugees, and medium, small, and micro-enterprises, ensuring that these groups are integrated into the digital economy. 

Ms. Isha Dyfan expressed dismay at the ongoing restrictions on civic space in Somalia, which include instances of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and imprisonment of journalists and media workers, leading to self-censorship.

“I am encouraged by the appointment of the Somali National Media Council members in an effort to enhance the media landscape, I have also received concerns that the process was not in accordance with the media law. A safe and inclusive civic space is essential to good governance, and rule of law, and can help to reduce and prevent violence”, she noted.

In conclusion, Ms. Dyfan appealed to the international community for support to strengthen Somalia's humanitarian response and reinforce long-term resilience against future disasters, with a specific focus on addressing the protection concerns of women and girls. 

She also commended the Federal Government for its efforts in securing $4.5 Billion in debt relief and emphasized the critical need for increased investment in health and education sectors to promote economic and social rights while advancing human rights and rule of law mechanisms as pathways to peace and security in Somalia.


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