Civilians in Somalia, enduring abuses by all warring parties and dire humanitarian conditions, continue to bear the brunt of the country’s long-running conflict. Government commitments to improve security in areas under its control, and build capacity of rule-of-law institutions,bore limited results in 2016.
Targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure,
particularly by the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab, with suicide bombings and
improvised explosive devices (IEDs), continue to have a devastating impact. Over
1 million Somalis remain internally displaced, facing serious abuses and very
limited access to basic services. Fighting, linked both to military operations
against Al-Shabab and clan fighting over resources and political power, and
forced evictions resulted in new civilian displacement and casualties.
Much of the focus of the Somali authorities andtheir international
partners has been on the electoral process. Tight deadlines as well as ongoingpolitical maneuvering and infighting around the electoral process,
including between the federal and regional authorities,largely detracted from
progress in justice and security sector reform.
The Somali president took a positive step in August by signing a
law establishing a national human rights commission. The government also made
important commitments to human rights protections during itsUniversal Periodic Review
at the United Nations, but in practice it failed to address violations against
the internally displaced and attacks on journalists, among other serious
Abuses by Government and Allied Forces
Somalia’s national intelligence agency, NISA, continues
to conduct mass security sweeps despite having no legal mandate to arrest or
detain. NISA held detainees for prolonged periods without charge or judicial
review and on occasion beat suspects during interrogations. On July 21, NISA
agents arrested five members of a policy center, Mogadishu Center for Research
and Studies, held them without charges or legal counsel until September 6,
before releasing them.
Security forces continue to arbitrarily detain and recruit children.Media
reported that NISA
used children in their custody as informants to identify Al-Shabab members.According
to the UN,a government investigation later corroborated the allegations.
The military court in
Mogadishu continues to try cases that are not legally within its jurisdiction
and in proceedings falling short of international fair trial standards. According
to the UN,at least 64 death sentences were issued in 2016.The majority of these
were handed down in Puntland, followinga large-scale Al-Shababoffensive in
Puntland and Galmudug,when a military court sentenced43 people to deathfor
their association with Al-Shabab in June.According to the UN,12of those on
death row arebelieved to be children.
evictions of internally displaced persons, including by government forces, continued.
According to UN figures, during the first eight months of 2016, over 80,000
people were forcibly evicted by government forces and private actors,primarily
Inter-clan and inter-regional fighting
primarily linked to tensions around the creation of new federal states resulted
in civilians deaths and injury and the destruction of property. Fighting broke
out in October between the Galmudug interim administration, which was
established in 2015, and Puntland forces. At least 22 civilians were killed and
dozens injured, and according to the UN, nearly 90,000 people were displaced.
Al-Shabab committed targeted
killings, beheadings, and executions, particularly of those accused of spying
and collaborating with the government. The armed groupcontinues
to administer arbitrary justice, forcibly recruits children, and severely
restricts basic rights in areas under its control. Some young men and
boys who returned from Kenya’s refugee camps to Al-Shabab-controlled areas,
including Buale and Sakoow, have faced pressure to join Al-Shabab.
targets civilians and civilian structures, with an increase in attacks on schools,
hotels, and restaurants in Mogadishu, resulting in numerous casualties. On
January 21, Al-Shabab conducted a complex attack on popular restaurants in Mogadishu’s
Lido beach, in which over 20 people were killed and dozens injured, including women
Al-Shabab controls and carries out attacks
along many supply routes and imposes blockades on towns captured by AMISOM and
government forces, restricting movement of goods and assistance.
continues to threaten and target journalists in government-controlled areas and
bans independent media from reporting in areas it controls. It claimed responsibility
for a December 3, 2015 car bomb that killed 31-year-old reporter Hindiya Haji
Mohamed, who worked for the state-run media.
Abuses by Foreign Forces
Reports persist of indiscriminate killings of civilians
by AMISOM and other foreign forces, including during operations against
Al-Shabab and airstrikes.
On July 17,Ethiopian
forces indiscriminately killed 14 civilians during an operation against
Al-Shabab in Somalia’s Bay region. So far, despite public commitments from
AMISOM’s leadership, and an AMISOM board of inquiry, the findings have not been
made public and survivors and the community have not received any compensation.
Airstrikes by Kenya in the Gedo region following the January 15
attack on its base in El Adde resulted in significant civilian deaths, displacement,
and destruction of livestock and civilian property. The UN raised concerns of
use of cluster munition by Kenya in the Gedo region, which Kenya denied.
The UN Security Councilrepeatedly called on troop-contributing
countries to share information with AMISOM’s Civilian Casualty Tracking
Analysis Research Cell, but this has not regularly occurred in practice.
While the full scope of sexual violence in
Somalia remains unknown, internally displaced women and girls are particularly
vulnerable to rape by armed men, including government soldiers and militia.Protection
of the most vulnerable communities is largely non-existent.
remainsattheheadquarters’levelwithrestricted reachwithinthemissions’sectorsthus limiting its abilitytoinvestigateabuses.The UN reported allegations
of gang-rape by 14 AMISOM soldiers of two girls in the Galgudud region; an AMISOM
investigation found the allegations wereunfounded.
Displaced Persons and Access to Humanitarian
the UN, there are currently 1.1 million internally displaced people in Somalia,
an estimated 400,000 living in Mogadishu alone, who remain very vulnerable and
reliant on assistance. Human Rights Watch and other organizations continue to
document serious abuses against displaced people living in government-controlled
areas including rape and forced evictions. A number of refugees returning from Kenya as part of a UN-supported
repatriation drive ended up in informal displacement camps.
Humanitarian agencies faced challenges
accessing needy populations due to insecurity, restrictions imposed by parties
to the conflict and targetted attacks.
Attacks on Media, Human Rights Defenders, and Political
Targeted attacks on media, including
harassment, and intimidation by federal and regional authorities and the
Sagal Salad Osman, working for the state-run media, was killed on June 5, and
Abdiaziz Mohamed Ali, ajournalist at Radio Shabelle,was killed on September 27,
by unknown gunmen.
TheSomali authorities rarely investigate cases of killings or
attacks on journalists or prosecute perpetrators; the
authorities have only investigated and prosecuted attacks attributed to
Al-Shabab, relying on the national intelligence agency, and the country’s
military court, whose investigations and trials do not meet international due
On March 3, the military court sentenced
Hassan Hanafi, a journalist who worked for Al-Shabab’s
Radio Andalus, to death for his alleged involvement in the
killing of at least five journalists; he was excuted on April 11. Hanafi had been
held without being brought before a court for over a year, was filmed “confessing” prior to his trial on the state-run media and only met
the lawyers representing him on the day of his sentencing.
President Hassan Sheikh signed a new
media law that risks further hampering freedom of expression by including many
vague media restrictions.
In Puntland, on
June 23, the minister of information ordered the closure ofDaljir’s FM radiostations
throughout the region, reportedly as a result of an interview with a critic of
the government. Daljir was off air for 12 days.
Somalilandauthorities continue to restrict public criticism of their
governance and policies. In May, the justice minister revoked the license of
human rights lawyer, Guleid Ahmed Jama, on dubious grounds that his work as a
lawyer and as the chairman of a human rights organization were incompatible.
The chief justice later revoked the suspension. Authorities regularly detained
journalists; some resulted in criminal charges.
Somaliland continued with
its negative trend of executions with seven people executedin 2016.
have failed to sufficiently control and regulate private mental health centers
that have confined patients involuntarily and subjected them to chaining, and,
on occasion, beatings.One private center improved it treatment of those with
mental disabilities by closing its inpatient facilities and providing support
to patients in their communities.
Foreign and regional partners continued to
provide financial and other assistance to AMISOM, andthe United States and United
Kingdom paid the salaries of the Somali national army.Donorsalso provided
directsupport to regional security and police forces. In addition to Turkey’s
ongoing humanitarian, political, and economic engagements, the Gulf
states, primarily the United Arab Emirates, increased their military and
political support to Somalia.
US airstrikes and ground operations against Al-Shababsignificantly
increased in 2016. In November, the US Defense Department acknowledged a September
28 strike had killed local militia forces and not Al-Shabab members, as they
had initially claimed.
At the political level, much of the
international and regional community has focused on the electoral process,
despite limited progress in key reform areas.
the US imposed partial military sanctions on Somalia due to its continued
recruitment and use of child soldiers, barring commercial arms sales and
several other categories of military assistance for the 2017 fiscal year.