Every year on 9th December, the eve of the World Human Rights Day, Human Rights Centre publishes an annual report on the situation of human rights in Somaliland. The purpose is to give attention to the human rights issues Somaliland faces and to provide recommendations to improve the situation.
This report is based on research conducted in Hargeisa, Burao, Borama, Berbera, Las Anod and Erigavo. Detainees, journalists, eye-witnesses, victims, family members, lawyers, internally displaced people and civil society members were interviewed for this report. Additionally, HRC has two databases to document human rights issues. One for the arrest, detention and prosecution of journalists and another which documents all human rights abuses.
The Republic of Somaliland declared separation from Somalia on 18th May 1991. Somaliland, a former British Protectorate, won its independence on 26 June 1960 and united with Somalia, an Italian colony, to form Somali Republic. The Somali Republic was a democratic country from 1960 to 1969 when the military took over the power in a coup. The military regime led by General Mohamed Siad Barre committed serious human rights violations. In 1991 the government collapsed after a decade of a bloody war. Somaliland announced its separation when the government of Siad Barre collapsed.
Somaliland has a working political system based on a multiparty system. The last presidential election took place on 13th November 2017 and was won by the ruling party candidate, Muse Behi Abdi. The election results declared on 21st November 2017 were disputed by Abdirahman Mohamed Abdilahi, an opposition contender who called it fraud. The international observers praised the election.
Our research found that the police continue to work in a militarized way and do not follow the law in conducting arrests and detentions. Because of absence of a police law, the institutions work under very few legal constraints. The civilian courts have no jurisdiction to hear cases against police officers and as a result there is little accountability. In 2017, the Human Rights Centre recorded a number of incidents where the police overstepped their mandate and abused their power.
Somaliland police do not have operating procedures on the rules of engagement on how and when to use their weapons. Inmates faced violence including beatings as well as verbal abuse during arrest. The police officers who conduct arrests use excessive force to apprehend suspects. HRC documented a number of injuries and deaths caused by the police in 2017. The incidents recorded by HRC include deaths caused by the police. The other problems with the police include:
- Alarming sanitation, food and health care conditions of the overcrowded police stations;
- Arrests without warrant are the norm in Somaliland and the judiciary does little to oversee this police power and ensure that constitutional rights are not violated;
- Prolonged remand periods;
- No access for lawyer to the police stations to meet clients and advise them of their legal rights;
- Insufficient time for detainees and lawyers to prepare defense;
- No disclosure of evidence before trial and as a result defense lawyers only learn what the state evidence is when it is presented to the court;
- A majority of detainees prosecuted without lawyers;
- The use of excessive force by the police and the military in post-election demonstrations that occurred on 15th November 2017. Four civilians died and at least 9 others were injured. All were hit by gun bullets fired by the police and the military, according to eyewitnesses and victims;
- Arrests and detentions of people for civil issues including failure to pay debts.
The other human rights issues this report covers are:
- Violence against women and girls including rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation;
- Rights of minority clans;
- Intimidation of human rights defenders;
- Arrest and prosecution of politicians; and
- Detentions and prosecutions of journalists, as well as shutting down of media houses. During 2017, 25 journalists were detained in Somaliland and two of them were prosecuted. In addition the government blocked 6 websites. In the previous year (2016), 28 journalists were detained and 2 newspapers were closed down.
Human Rights Centre recommends the government of Somaliland to:
- End the discrimination and stigmatization of the minority clans and provide services and affirmative actions;
- End violence against women in Somaliland, and approve laws that protect women and girls. The required laws include a family law and sexual offences act;
- Legislate law ending female genital mutilation;
- Stop applying the criminal law to the media and journalists. Criminalization of media contradicts the Constitution and the Press Law of Somaliland as well as international human rights law. Civil laws and the Press Law shall be applied on all cases on media related issues;
- Allow the opening of new media houses including radio stations. The government shall reinstate the registration process of new media houses and transfer of those owners who want to handover to new people. At the same time lift the suspension from banned newspapers of Haatuf, Somaliland Times, al Haatuf al Arabia, Hubsad and Codka Shacabka, as well as banned websites;
- Reform the police of Somaliland to subject the police to the jurisdiction of the civilian courts and pass laws and procedures making the police accountable.
- Stop the arrests and detentions of people for civil cases.
- Stop all arbitrary arrests and detentions. The arrest and detentions should be based on the Constitution and the other laws of the country.
- Improve the conditions of the police stations.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Chairperson of Human Rights Centre, Hargeisa Somaliland
Lawyer at Xaqdoon Law Firm
Look here PDF Final draft of HRC 2017 report