“I call on the Government to prioritize the creation and implementation of a twin strategy: to enhance the capacity of the judiciary and the Somali Police force, and to prohibit clan and traditional elders from resolving or adjudicating such cases,” said the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga, in a press release.
“There is also a crucial need to create human rights awareness among clan elders and religious leaders about women´s rights, as one way of facilitating change within communities,” he added.
Mr. Nyanduga noted that the Xeer Somali traditional dispute resolution system continues to play a key role in the country, given that rule of law institutions are still being established. He was concerned to learn that traditional elders adjudicate sexual and gender-based violence cases, such as rape, due to the absence of a fully functioning criminal justice system in many parts of Somalia.
He called for the adoption of the Sexual Offences Bill during the forthcoming session of Parliament to further guarantee the protection of women’s rights and also urged the Government to implement the recommendations arising from Somalia’s 2016 Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council, including the adoption of a moratorium on the death penalty.
Mr. Nyanduga commended the Federal and regional authorities and Parliament for committing themselves to holding elections later this year, widening the electoral base and ensuring that a 30 per cent women representation is met. However, he expressed concern that representation of youth, minorities and persons with disabilities, is not similarly guaranteed.
The Independent Expert also reiterated the need to address the human rights challenges that journalists and media in Somalia face. He warned that the Media Law must not be used as a tool to harass journalists, but rather to ensure respect for the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
He noted with satisfaction the Government’s commitment to adopt the National Human Rights Commission Bill, establishing an independent National Human Rights Institution before the end of its tenure, and urged that this commitment be met. However, he said that another bill, the Counter Terrorism Bill, could potentially negatively affect the enjoyment of human rights.
According to Mr. Nyanduga, to be effective in fighting terrorism, the law must be firmly entrenched in human rights. He urged the authorities to ensure that this bill conforms to international human rights guarantees in accordance with Somalia’s international human rights obligations and the revised Federal Constitution.