UN Human Rights Council – 39th regular session
Item 10: Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia
Oral statement delivered by Nicolas Agostini
Mr. President, Mr. Independent Expert,
DefendDefenders thanks you for your report, which reflects positive developments, challenges and issues, including terrorist attacks by militant group Al-Shabaab.
The establishment and process of staffing of the National Human Rights Commission is an important step towards greater respect for the rights of all Somali citizens. We encourage the swift operationalisation of the Commission, including through the provision of adequate funding for its work.
We commend the launch of the Joint Human Rights Programme, as well as the steps towards human rights compliance that AMISOM has taken, including the adoption of standard operating procedures and guidelines on the use of fire and handling of detainees. The launch of a constitutional review process and the passage of an electoral law are also important steps towards “one-person, one-vote” elections in 2020.
We remain concerned over violations of freedom of expression, women’s rights and children’s rights, including the rights of minors recaptured from Al-Shabaab. Sexual and gender-based violence and the practice of female genital mutilation continue to be committed with widespread impunity. The adoption of the Sexual Offences Bill is a step in the right direction, but much more will need to be done to bring about structural and societal change.
We deplore acts of intimidation, harassment, and attacks against journalists, which remain pervasive throughout the country, and punishment of those who express dissent. For instance, in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, poet and peace activist Naema Qorane was sentenced to three years in jail on charges of “anti-national activity of a citizen and bringing the nation or state in contempt.” She was later pardoned.
In August 2018, DefendDefenders designated Mohamed Farah, a Somali human rights defender and founder of the Somali Disability Empowerment Network (SODEN), Defender of the Month. Farah’s advocacy for people with disabilities, and against the serious discrimination they face, is a ray of hope in a country that has long overlooked the challenges faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. We therefore applaud the announcement, made last week following a Council of Ministers meeting, that Somalia will ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Thank you for your attention.