Somaliland: Demilitarize the Police Force , HRC Urges in 2019 Annual Report

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HRC

Somalilandsun- The government of Somaliland has been urged to Carry out meaningful police reform on the grounds of the Constitution and internationally accepted standards. This is according to the Human Rights Centre annual report 2019 which further states that the administration must  De-militarize the police and subject the police under the jurisdiction of the civilian courts as well as establish an independent oversight body.

Below report Highlights

Human Rights Centre annual report cover a wide range of human rights issues and is based on the organisations’ monitoring and documentation of human rights issue in Somaliland in 2019. The report is a result of the daily documentation, interviews of survivors, experts and government officials, and review of official documents such as court judgements.

The report highlights increasing crackdown of media, critical voices and opposition politicians. In this year, 2019, the Human Rights Centre has recorded 88 people arrested for cases related to freedom of opinion. This includes 29 people who are journalists and 59 who are not journalists. The people arrested without due process of law and targeted for what they have said or posted on social media include opposition figures, including the secretary-general of Waddani opposition party, Khadar Hussein Abdi, the spokesperson and youth wing leader of the party, Barkhad Jama Batun and Mohamed Sidiq Dhame, respectively.

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Journalists remain the primary target of the government. HRC documented and verified arrests of 29 journalists who were put in jail for their media work. Those prosecuted were charged with 1. Anti-national propaganda; 2. Publication of false news, 3. Anti-national propaganda 3. Non-observance of orders of authorities. The government uses outdated Penal Code which was enacted in the early 1960s and that predates the Constitution of Somaliland. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, media and assembly. In this year four media houses were shut down.

Unsanctioned protests are not allowed in Somaliland. Opposition parties were refused to rally at their headquarters, and homeless children who gathered to complain the harsh situation they live in were jailed for their assembly in front of the Ministry of Employment, Social and Family Affairs.  On the 16th of November, the chairman of the political party Waddani called out his supporters to gather for a rally at the headquarters of the party, expressing their discontent with the government about a dispute over the composition of the National Electoral Commission. On the morning of the 18th, when the supporters gathered around the headquarters, they found several trucks of police dispatched around the office, while others took over the office around 6 in the morning, kicking the office staff out. On 19th November 2019, the governor of Hargeisa ordered hotel managers that all meetings and ceremonies not authorized by the government shall not be convened at hotels.

The report also points:

  • Police impunity, arresting people without courts warrants, beatings and politicisation of the security forces to crackdown opposition figures. Cracking down of public and peaceful protests and using unnecessary excessive force: the police uses excessive force against any public rallies not authorised by the government.
  •  Occurrences of sexual and gender-based violence with no legal protection. The Sexual Offences Act enacted to protect girls and women was rejected by the government to implement.
  • Forced evictions by using the military and other security forces. The evictions were made without court procedures.
Demilitarize the Somaliland Police Force

Recommendations

To the government of Somaliland:

  • Carry out meaningful police reform on the grounds of the Constitution and internationally accepted standards. De-militarize the police and subject the police under the jurisdiction of the civilian courts as well as establish an independent oversight body.
  • Police should not use force to quell peaceful protestors;
  •  Appoint an independent investigation committee to examine and report about the conditions of detention facilities run by the Police.
  • Appoint an independent committee to investigate incidents that occurred in Sanaag region during the inter-clan conflict. The mandate of the committee should include investigating the allegations of police brutality. Make the report of the independent committee publicly available. Particular focus should be made on the work of the Rapid Reaction Unit (RRU).
  • Stop using the military in policing issues. As stated in the Constitution, it is not the job of the military to police internal affairs.
  • Respect the freedom of expression as exalted in the constitution of Somaliland and accept the decriminalization of the media.
  • Allow the opposition to exercise their political rights including the right to assembly and freedom of expression. Stop jailing opposition figures.
  • Allow public protests and refrain from cracking down of public protests.
  • Stop forcefully evicting people from land and houses. Use a due process of law and courts in handling land disputes.
  • Put a stop to the detention and prosecution of the media personnel.  Halt the restrictive orders intervening editorial decisions and censorship of published matter on independent media houses.
  • Lift the suspension from suspended media houses and stop shutting down of media houses.
  • End the illegal arrests and detention of civilians and politicians for exercising their constitutional rights as such of expression.
  • Implement the Press Act, 2004, and stop using the outdated Penal Code.
Somaliland: Stop Restricting Freedom of Media, HRC Urges Information Minister

To the judiciary Commission

  • Impalement the Sexual Offences Act;
  • Stop hearing criminal cases against journalists arrested and prosecuted for issues related to their media work. Stop remanding journalists targeted by the government to intimidate and harass private media.
  • Uphold the right to liberty and fair trial rights enshrined in the Constitution. Hence introduce meaningful reform aimed to ensure the independence of the judiciary from the ever-increasing executive reach. Make appointments and dismissals of judges based on fair and transparent competitive process devoid of clan-based selections.

Download the full report

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