Progress, challenges and human rights needs in Somalia highlighted during visit of UN Independent Expert

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The human rights situation in Somalia came under the spotlight last week with the first visit of the United Nations Independent Expert on the matter, culminating in her noting the progress and challenges, as well as calling for more international support for human rights in the country. .

“I urge the international community not to slacken its support at this final stage as stability increasingly becomes a reality in Somalia,” the minister said. Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in SomaliaIsha Dyfan, said at a press conference today 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 the federal and federal member state institutions, in particular the security and justice institutions as well as the health system,” she added, ” and address the adverse effects of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights, by ensuring access to basic social services, including drinking water, sanitation, housing, health care education for all children, especially girls.

The independent expert was speaking at the end of a week-long visit to Somalia. It was his first since his appointment in May 2020 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to this position, which involves assessing, monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country of the Horn of Africa, with a view to making recommendations on technical assistance and capacity building.

Travel restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic had prevented her from visiting earlier.

“In light of this and the ongoing electoral process, I have chosen to focus my first visit on economic, social and cultural rights, as they relate to the criteria and indicators of my second report to the Human Rights Council. United Nations man,” Ms. Dyfan said. .

While in Mogadishu, the Independent Expert met with the Federal Minister for Women and Human Rights Development, Hanifa Mohamed Ibrahim, and the Federal Minister for Justice, Hassan Hussein Haji, as well as representatives of humanitarian and civil society organizations, as well as the African Union Mission. in Somalia (AMISOM), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.

She also visited the city of Baidoa in the Federal Member State of South West State, where she met with its President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen’ and other senior officials, as well as representatives of civil society.

Humanitarian needs

In her remarks to the media, the independent expert noted how the 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 Response and Preparedness Plan and prepositioning food, water and non-food items to support displaced populations in Baidoa and other parts of the country,” Ms. Dyfan noted.

Health needs

The independent expert reported that access to health care remains dangerously low in the country. She cited the example of Mogadishu which has only one public hospital and people often have to seek health services from private health facilities and pay high sums out of pocket for medical treatment.

“As a result, only a few people can afford these services, resulting in high infant and maternal mortality. I therefore urge the government to expand the delivery of public health services, in light of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to increase funding for its health system,” the independent expert said.

She also called on the authorities to advance efforts to eliminate child, early and forced marriage and to protect the rights of girls in vulnerable situations, as such marriages contribute to extremely high population growth and have negative consequences on health.

justice needs

Ms. Dyfan reported that the treatment and conditions in Somali prisons are below international standards and that the death penalty remains a legal punishment. She urged the federal government to halt all executions and institute a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.

“Despite the enormity of these challenges,” she added, “the government has strengthened its normative and institutional frameworks to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, including in the realm of the state law and the administration of justice”.

In this regard, the Independent Expert also highlighted alternative dispute resolution centers in the country. These were created to deal with minor civil matters – including family matters, land and property rights – with a view to filling 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, applying Islamic and customary laws,” Ms. Dyfan said.

Electoral needs

The ongoing parliamentary elections in Somalia were also highlighted in the Independent Expert’s remarks. She stressed that women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy.

“However, from discussions, I have been informed that the minimum quota of 30% for women’s representation during the ongoing electoral process is not being met, suggesting that more work needs to be done now in view of the next election,” Ms. Dyfan said, in addition to calling on the federal government to ensure that the participation quota for women is met in the remaining seats.

“I also urge the government to ensure diversity and inclusion, which emphasizes equal treatment and equal opportunity for marginalized and minority groups,” she added.

Media needs

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 vein, she raised concerns about arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists by security personnel across the country.

“I would like 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 bringing their content and enforcement into line with the principle of legality and other international human rights standards. human,” Ms. Dyfan said.

She added that she was encouraged by the launch of a legal aid unit by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to provide legal protection to journalists. The program aims to ensure that lawyers have the necessary tools to promote fundamental rights related to media freedom, based on international and regional legal standards.

Independent experts

Ms Dyfan said she will expand on her preliminary observations and recommendations in a full report to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly later this year.

Independent experts like Mrs Dyfan are part of what is known as the Special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations human rights system, is the general name for the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific national situations or issues themes in all regions of the world. Special Procedures experts 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.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

This press release was issued by APO. Content is not vetted by the African Business editorial team and none of the content has been checked or validated by our editorial teams, proofreaders or fact checkers. The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.

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