Human Rights Centre: the government proposes iron-fisted amendments of the Police ActNovember 14, 2018
Somaliland arrests poet Abdirahman Abees in relation to a poetry readingJanuary 13, 2019
Today, 31st December 2018, Human Rights Centre published an annual report on the situation of human rights in Somaliland. Every year, the Human Rights Centre issues an annual report to inform the government and the people of Somaliland human rights issues that need improvement. In this year the previously banned prominent newspaper, Haatuf, was informed by the court that it can resume work. The paper was shut down in 2014 after reporting allegations of corruption. Furthermore, journalist Mohamed Adan Dirir who was serving and 18 months jail term for criminal defamation and publication of false news was released by a presidential pardon. At the backdrop of these developments, this report provides accounts of violations of freedom of expression, assembly and rights to fair trial.
HRC Annual Report 2018
The areas the report covers include:
- In the period covered by this report, the Human Rights Centre documented 35 people who were arrested for cases related to freedom of expression. This includes 28 journalists and 7 people who are not journalists. Media houses were shut down or suspended. Increasing restrictions of freedom of media and expression have been recorded. Many journalists were held for Facebook posts. This shows the government’s focus on social media activities.
- The Rape and Sexual Offences Act signed by the president of Somaliland Muse Behi Abdi on August 2018 has been suspended as being contrary to the Constitution. The Act, which criminalizes interventions of clan elders in rape cases, was opposed by religious and traditional leaders. It was aimed to tackle rape cases, help victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The rejection of the law happens while rape cases are increasing. In December 2018, the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs stated that they have recorded 520 rape cases.
- Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) suffer continuous displacements, forced evictions, and lack of basic government services such as health, shelter, education, security and food. The people who came from Somalia (South Central Somalia) are not recognized by the Somaliland government as IDPs and international organizations do recognize them as IDPs. The difference leaves vulnerable people in a legal vacuum. This affects their access to services, land ownership as well as documentation and legal papers.
- A Police Act widely praised for providing accountability framework and protection of civilians was amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the government. The amendment suggested by the government removes accountability for the Police and enables the Police to work without oversight. The report found that the basic fair trial-related rights are not respected, depriving basic rights from many accused persons.
- Detainees in police stations complain about police beatings. The violence of the police is not investigated or recorded as the institution is lacking any oversight body. Cases take a very long time to be brought to court, which makes it even worse because the person will still be in detention if the case is ongoing. Defendants are held in police stations at the trial stage. Police stations lack food and are overcrowded with poor sanitation. Inmates in police stations depend on family members for food.
- According to the annual Police report released on 3rd November 2018, 19,664 criminal cases were reported to the police between January 2018 to November 2018. Only 28% of these cases were brought to court. More than half of those brought to court is still pending. According to the report, 44% were resolved outside of the court system.
- Figure: Disaggregation of November 2018 police report.
To the government of Somaliland:
- Implement the Rape and Sexual Offences Act, and adopt an implementation strategy to ensure the law is fully enforced;
- Respect the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution of Somaliland and accept the decriminalization of the media and halt the detentions and prosecutions of journalists. Halt the restrictive orders intervening editorial decisions imposed on independent media houses;
- Withdraw the amendment of the Police Act. Reform the police and implement the Police Act and establish the independent police complaint body enshrined in the Act;
- Carry out comprehensive criminal justice sector reform to comply with the fair trial standards required by the Constitution of Somaliland and international human rights law. These reforms should include Police and judicial reforms to permit accused persons to exercise their rights without restrictions and treat individuals with dignity and respect.
- Provide necessary services to people at IDPs centres in Somaliland. These services include health, education, security, legal, protection, sanitation etc. Re-locate those who live on land owned by private individuals and locate to land to live with a registration; facilitate and coordinate to build shelters that are in conformity with standards. Carry out urgently a wide-ranging assessment that covers all areas and sectors and be capable of identifying the assistance and protection of all vulnerable groups; and implement national policies relating to IDPs and also clarify the legal position of the people from Somalia (South Central Somalia).
- Stop arresting people for alleged crimes purportedly committed by family members, and arresting for civil cases. Generally, arbitrary arrests should be stopped and arrests should be conducted in accordance with the Constitution of Somaliland.
Yasmin Omar Haji Mohamoud
The Chairperson of Human Rights Centre