H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia
Rt Hon David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Re: Human Rights at the Somalia Conference 2013
On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), I am writing to commend the inclusion of rebuilding the justice system among the focus areas of the upcoming Somalia Conference and to emphasise the importance of including human rights considerations throughout this process.
Respect for human rights is essential for the rebuilding of a stable state and the rule of law in Somalia. EHAHRDP therefore welcomes recent public commitments on the part of the Government of Somalia on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. In the new spirit of partnership between Somalia and the international community that the 7th May Conference is expected to embody, we urge representatives of the international community, in particular the United Kingdom, to provide not only financial support but also technical expertise to enable the Somali Government to translate these commitments into practical improvements in the country in conformity with fundamental principles of human rights. This should include support to the parliamentary committee on human rights, humanitarian affairs and gender to enable it to carry out its mandate effectively, as well as the establishment of an independent national human rights commission, as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
Human rights defenders can make an important contribution to embedding a human rights culture in the country, but, as the UNDP Somalia Resident Representative stated recently, “to be a human rights defender in Somalia is to live in constant threat of losing one’s life.” With eighteen media workers assassinated in 2012 and four journalists killed already since the beginning of this year, the dangers are indeed grave. Among those killed in an attack on a court in Mogadishu on 14th April 2013 were two lawyers who had successfully defended a woman prosecuted for reporting her rape by government soldiers and a journalist who had investigated the case.
The protection of human rights defenders and the fostering of an enabling environment where they can eventually carry out their work without fear of attack should therefore be a priority for the upcoming conference. The announcement of the establishment of an independent panel to investigate the killings of media workers in the country was a positive step and the investigating team must be given all necessary support to conduct timely, thorough, impartial and genuinely independent inquiries. Ending impunity for such attacks is an essential element in improving the protection of journalists in Somalia.
In closing, EHAHRDP would like to urge the Government and its international partners to ensure that all their efforts to promote human rights in Somalia, including in prosecutions and penalties to hold perpetrators to account, are fully in line with internationally recognised human rights standards.
Hassan Shire Sheikh