Rights group criticises Somalia over rapes
Thursday, March 28, 2013
President acknowledges rights issues but denies allegations his soldiers have been abusing people in refugee camps.
Somalia's President has responded to a report that accuses security
forces of abusing people in refugee camps, saying his government is
working to improve its human rights record but that the list of problems
his country is facing is "endless".
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday that Somalia's state
security forces and armed groups have raped and beaten people who sought
shelter and safety in emergency camps.
The New York-based rights group said the victims were people arriving
in the capital, Mogadishu, after fleeing famine and armed conflict
In an 80-page report, the HRW said the new Somali government had done little to change the situation.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Al Jazeera that the human rights
abuses have been a longstanding problem in the East African country but
that men in fake uniforms may have been responsible for some of the
"Violations have happened in the past 20 years. We have been working
to address the challenge of human rights without a government in place
in Somalia. But now that we do have a government, we are committed to
address this issue," Sheikh Mohamud said.
"A report has been prepared before I came to office in 2011 and 2012
and we do not deny that there are shortcomings. The list of problems in
Somalia is endless. The human rights issue is part of that list," the
HRW called on the Somali government to urgently improve the
protection and security of Mogadishu's internally displaced population.
The report details serious violations, including physical attacks, restrictions on movement and access to food and shelter.
It also highlights clan-based discrimination against the displaced in
the capital from the height of the famine in mid-2011 through 2012.
Leslie Lefkow, HRW's deputy Africa director, said displaced people
had been subjected to hostility and abuse instead of being granted a
'Protection of displaced'
"The new Somali government should quickly remedy the failures of the
previous government, improve protection of displaced people, and hold to
account members of the armed forces and others responsible for abuses,"
HRW's report said interviews with 70 displaced people documented the
ways in which government forces, affiliated militias, and private
parties, notably camp managers known as "gatekeepers", preyed upon the
David Mepham, HRW's UK director, told Al Jazeera that his
organisation is calling for "a real process of accountability" for the
"Lots of abuses have been committed in these camps, sometimes with
the knowledge of the gatekeepers, but noone has been held accountable
for that," he said.
Somalia is slowly emerging from two decades of conflict, which began with the overthrow Siad Barre's government in 1991.
In 2011 a combination of fighting involving Somalia's Transitional
Federal Government and African peacekeepers against al-Shabab armed
group and unrelenting drought caused a devastating famine.
Tens of thousands of people fled south-central Somalia for Mogadishu where many are living in camps.