Somalia's federal government pledged action after a Human Rights
Watch (HRW) report alleged that state security force members were
committing rapes and other abuses against women and girls at camps for
internally displaced persons in Mogadishu.
"I have publicly said and reiterate my personal commitment to
restoring civil security in Somalia and to hold accountable all those
proven guilty of human rights violations," Somali President Hassan
Sheikh Mohamud said in a statement.
"The challenges that we face to rebuild our nation are huge and civil
and military security remains our most important priority," he said.
"Moreover, the process of repairing our security institutions is under
way to tackle issues such as discipline and professionalism."
The HRW report came out four months after Mohamud issued a stern
warning to government forces. "Any soldier who rapes somebody will be
put to death," the president said in late November.
In its March 26th report, HRW said that armed men in military
uniforms have been carrying out night-time sexual assaults targeting
women and girls in unprotected camps.
HRW called on the Somali government to work quickly to strengthen
protection for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and to bring to
justice members of the armed forces alleged to have raped or committed
other abuses against IDPs.
Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said that improving human rights in Somalia is one of the new government's priorities.
"Somalia is now looking to join the UN Human Rights Commission, and
that means we must try to improve our record and promote human rights in
everything we do," he said March 20th following a meeting with United
Nations Independent Human Rights Expert on Somalia Shamsul Bari.
This summer the Somali government will adopt a human rights roadmap
and announce a new directorate general for human rights, minority rights
and the rule of law, Shirdon said.
In February, the government formed an independent 13-member committee to monitor human rights violations.
"The decision to form the independent human
rights committee was made to address fears relating to human rights
violations and to investigate violence against women," Mohamud said. "We
are well aware of the collective responsibility to prevent human rights
Mariam Yusuf, who heads the committee, assured Somalis and
international partners that members of the group are aware of their
immense responsibility. "We are very serious in undertaking this mission
and we are fully committed to conducting independent investigations
into human rights violations," she said.
"Somalia has witnessed a state of disintegration and internal turmoil
over the past two decades, resulting in grave violations of human
rights and international law," she told Sabahi. "The absence of rule of
law and security in large parts of the country over the past few years
has created an environment where vulnerable segments of society are
Abdirahman Hassan, an official at Peace Line human rights organisation, said government efforts are working.
"Rape constitutes a main problem in the city, but over the past four
months -- after the presidential decision to execute any soldier that is
convicted of rape -- rape cases have declined," he said.
"Although the most vulnerable segments of society, including women
and children, are still subject to abuse, the government has taken
several steps within a short period of time to improve the human rights
situation in the country and to address violations by [security]
forces," he told Sabahi.
"We commend the steps taken by the government in forming the
independent team to monitor human rights, and we urge the government to
create a national human rights institution as well as to reform the
security and judicial institutions for the sake of improving human
rights in the country," he said.
The Somali government still has a long way to go, however, before
establishing basic human rights standards across the board, human rights
activist Mohamed Ali said.
"We call on the government to translate its commitments into tangible
procedures implemented on the ground and to follow through with the
roadmap for human rights that it has announced," he told Sabahi.