Statement on the Independent Experts on Somalia’s Report at the 15th Human Rights Council Session

The East and Horn of Africa in collaboration with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies prepared a statement building on key issues raised by the IE on Somalia in his report regarding the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and the limited international human rights reporting on Somalia.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in collaboration with the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and Somali Human Rights Defenders Network would like to thank the Independent Expert on Somalia for his report and his efforts to engage with civil society actors from Somalia.

We would like to build on some of the key issues raised by the Independent Expert notably regarding ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and limited international human rights reporting on Somalia.

Human Rights Defenders in Somalia continue to pay a heavy price for their efforts to ensure that the widespread violations committed in South and Central Somalia are not obscured.

In 2010 individual journalists have been subjected to arbitrary detention, kidnappings and key media outlets have faced severe restrictions on their reporting, had their facilities attacked and/or taken over primarily by insurgent groups. Activists have also faced significant challenges and threats that have affected the scope and nature of their work. The voices of these key actors are therefore scarcer as many defenders have either been forced to exert significant self-censorship, relocate to the small TFG controlled areas of Mogadishu, or been forced to flee into neighbouring countries or further afield.

Key actors, including donor states and UN agencies, should encourage accountability for violations against defenders and enhance support – logistical, political and financial- to defenders on the ground.

Ensuring that the voices of HRDs from Somalia are heard at the international level is key: we urge the Council to ensure that a human rights defender will be represented in tomorrow’s standalone dialogue.

Finally, we call on the UN to immediately step up efforts to map out key past and present violations of human rights law and to identify appropriate accountability mechanisms to ensure that those responsible for these violations are held to account. This will be key to overcoming the culture of impunity so deeply rooted in Somalia.



Human Rights Defender of the month: Veronica Almedom

Veronica Almedom is a poster child of successful immigration. A duo Eritrean and Swiss citizen, she was born in Italy, and grew up in Switzerland where she permanently resides. Her parents are some of the earliest victims of Eritrea’s cycles of violence. When Eritrea’s war of independence peaked in the early 1980s, they escaped the country as unaccompanied minors, wandering through Sudan, Saudi Arabia, before making the hazard journey across the Mediterranean into Europe. There, they crossed first to Italy, and finally, to Switzerland, where they settled first as refugees, and later, as permanent residents.