Today, Human Rights Centre released a quarterly report. The report covers incidents documented by HRC from 10th December 2017 to 31st March 2018. It is based on data gathered, verified and recorded by the Centre. This period coincides with a change in leadership in Somaliland. President Muse Behi Abdi was inaugurated on 13th December 2017 after he won the 13th November presidential election contested by three presidential hopefuls, two of them from opposition parties.
During the reporting period, 11 journalists were arrested in different regions. Five of them were prosecuted (four of them were released after paying fine, and one is still in detention facing charges), and six were released without charges.
Other seven people were arrested for statements they made. Poet Naema Ahmed Ibrahim, arrested on 27th January 2018, was charged on 4th March 2018 by the Office of the Attorney General. The prosecution charged Naema of two accounts: Anti-national Activity of a citizen abroad (article 212 of the Penal Code) and Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt (article 219(2) of the Penal Code).
As stated in the charge sheet dated on 4th March, the first charge relates to a Facebook post allegedly written by Naema in her Facebook account. The prosecution says the post “weakens the existence, unity, and solidarity of the State.” The second charge is about “insult and defamation against the state circulated in the media,” by Naema, the charge sheet says. The first hearing of the case started on 17th March 2018.
Mohamed Kayse Mohamoud was arrested on 7th February 2018 for Facebook posts. According to a charge sheet submitted by the Office of the Attorney General, Mohamed is accused of “subversive or anti-national propaganda,” and “offending the honour of the President.” The first charge relates to a Facebook post saying “it is meaningless Somaliland to reach its borders,” according to the charge sheet. The second charge is about another Facebook post in which Mohamed said “the President is a local.” The charge sheet says such statement is defaming the president, but it does not provide details.
Despite these challenges, on 26th December 2017, the President signed a Police Act into a law. The approval of the Act is a positive step forward. The Act creates an oversight body independent from the Police, and subjects the police to the jurisdiction of civilian courts. It expressly bans the Police from using live ammunition against unarmed civilians. However, three months period set by the Act for the establishment of the complaint committee has passed and the committee is not established.
On 6th February, the House of Representatives approved the Rape and other Related Offences Bill. The Bill is currently before the Upper House (Guurti). On 19thMarch 2018, the Upper House of Parliament debated the Bill. Many members criticized the Bill and stated it is contrary to the religion of Islam. Victims of rape cases continue facing legal challenges in accessing to justice in the absence of a law.
On 6th February 2018, the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a Fatwa (religious declaration) banning what it called “Pharaonic FGM” and legitimized so called “Sunna FGM.” The decision of the Ministry harms long time advocacy and awareness aimed at eradicating all forms of FGM. Somaliland needs to adopt and implement zero tolerance policy towards FGM and to legislate a law prohibiting all forms of FGM.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Director of Human Rights Centre, Hargeisa Somaliland