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Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008
(…) In Somaliland an estimated 60 percent of the budget was allocated to maintain a militia and police force comprised of former soldiers. Abuses by police and militia members were rarely investigated, and impunity was a problem. Police generally failed to prevent or respond to societal violence.
In May more than 800 Puntland militia members, who were employed as Puntland’s security force, reportedly abandoned their posts in protest over unpaid wages. In July police from Bossaso erected a roadblock to protest not receiving wages.(…)
(…) Authorities in each region arbitrarily arrested journalists during the year (see section 2.a.). TFG forces also arrested NGO and UN employees during the year (see section 4.).
(…) The Somaliland Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary was not independent in practice. The Somaliland constitution is based on democratic principles, but the region continued to use pre-1991 laws. There was a serious lack of trained judges and of legal documentation in Somaliland. Untrained police and other unqualified persons reportedly served as judges. The UNIE reported in 2006 that local officials often interfered with legal matters and that the Public Order Law in Somaliland was often used to detain and imprison persons without trial.
The Puntland Charter provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary was not independent in practice. The charter also provides for a Supreme Court, courts of appeal, and courts of first instance. (…)
(…) In Somaliland and Puntland, the rights to be represented by counsel and to appeal were more often respected. Authorities in those regions did not recognize the TFC and continued to apply the law of a regional constitution or charter, as well as the former government’s laws.
In Puntland clan elders resolved the majority of cases using traditional methods; those with no clan representation in Puntland, however, were subject to the administration’s judicial system.
(…) The TFC and the Somaliland Constitution provide for freedom of speech and press. However, there were instances of harassment, arrest, and detention of journalists in all regions of the country, including Puntland and Somaliland. The Puntland Charter provides for press freedom « as long as they respect the law »; however, this right was not respected in practice. Freedom House ranked the country as « not free » every year from 1972 to 2007. Reporters Without Borders also gave the country a low rating for press freedom. Journalists engaged in rigorous self-censorship in order to avoid reprisals.
In September the leader of the opposition Ramaas political party was arrested and held for 12 days in Puntland for leading a demonstration against the political situation in Puntland.
The print media consisted largely of short, photocopied dailies published in the larger cities and often affiliated with one of the factions. Several of these dailies were nominally independent and published criticism of prominent persons and political leaders.
In Somaliland there were six independent daily newspapers: Jamhuuriya, Haatuf, Ogaal, Geeska, Saxansaxo, and Maalmaha. There was also one government daily, Maandeeq, and two English language weeklies, Somaliland Times and the Republic. There were two independent television stations, Hargeysa TV and Hargeysa Cable TV, and one government-owned station, Somaliland National TV. Although the Somaliland constitution permits establishment of independent media, the Somaliland government has consistently prohibited the establishment of independent FM stations. The only FM station in Somaliland is the government-owned Radio Hargeysa
(…)Journalists and media organizations in all regions reported harassment including killings, kidnappings, detention without charge, and assaults on persons and property. Most of the experienced field reporters and senior editors have fled the country due to direct threats from both the TFG security forces and antigovernment groups. On December 16 unknown gunmen in Boosaaso kidnapped French journalist Gwen Le Gouil. Numerous journalists were arrested and detained in all regions of the country. In Baidoa and Mogadishu, the TFG continued to enforce strict orders against reporting or photographing ENDF security operations.
(…) The TFC and the Somaliland Constitution provide for freedom of assembly; however, a ban on demonstrations continued, and the lack of security effectively limited this right in many parts of the country. Use by security personnel of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.
(…)Also in January, Somaliland authorities arrested four students who were peacefully demonstrating against the arrest of the three Haatuf journalists arrested earlier in the same month. The students were detained in Mandera Prison and then sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after a secret emergency court hearing in Hargeysa. The students were denied the right to appeal the sentence. In February Ali Dool Ahmed, a writer, and Bo’aud, an activist, were arrested for distributing leaflets demanding the release of the same three journalists.
In October Somaliland forces allegedly used excessive force to disperse demonstrators opposed to their military presence in Las Anod.
(…) The Somaliland Constitution provides for freedom of association, and this right was generally respected in practice; however, in July Somaliland authorities arrested three opposition politicians who were planning to form a new political party. In July the Somaliland minister of interior warned that any person from Somaliland who participated in the NRC in Mogadishu would be accused of treason and punished. Police were instructed to monitor the borders for such individuals.
(…) Legislation governing the formation of political parties in Somaliland limits the number of parties allowed to contest general elections to three. An ad hoc commission nominated by the president and approved by the legislature was responsible for considering applications. The law provides that approved parties obtaining 20 percent of the vote are allowed to operate. There were three approved political parties.
(…) In Somaliland religious schools and places of worship must obtain the Ministry of Religion’s permission to operate. Proselytizing for any religion except Islam is prohibited in Puntland and Somaliland and effectively blocked by informal social consensus elsewhere in the country. Apart from restrictions imposed by the security situation, Christian-based international relief organizations generally operated freely as long as they refrained from proselytizing.
(…)The authorities in Somaliland cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
(…) Somaliland has a constitution and bicameral parliament with proportional clan representation and an elected president and vice president. Somaliland authorities have established functioning administrative institutions in virtually all of the territory they claim, which is the same as the Somaliland state that achieved international recognition briefly in 1960 before entering into a union with the former Italian colony of Somalia. In a 2001 referendum, 97 percent of voters supported Somaliland independence.
In May 2006 President of Somaliland Dahir Riyale Kahin postponed elections for the parliament’s House of Elders and initiated a process to extend the mandate of the upper house for four years. Opposition parties declared the process illegal. In July authorities arrested three opposition politicians planning to form a new political party.
The opposition figures–Mohamed Abdi Gaboose, Mohamed Hashi Elmi, and Jamal Aideed Ibrahim–were affiliated with the Qaran political association and charged with founding an illegal organization and creating instability. As of October they remained in detention. In October the National Electoral Commission announced that local government and presidential elections scheduled for December 2007 and April 2008 had been postponed, respectively, to July and August 2008 by agreement of the three official political parties.
In 1998 Puntland declared itself a semi-autonomous regional government during a consultative conference with delegates from six regions who included traditional community elders, the leadership of political organizations, members of local legislative assemblies, regional administrators, and civil society representatives. Puntland has a single-chamber quasi-legislative branch called the Council of Elders, which has played a largely consultative role. Political parties were banned. General Mohamud Muse Hersi was elected president by the Puntland Parliament in January 2005. Some Puntland cabinet ministers had their own militias, which contributed to a general lack of security.
Somaliland and Puntland continued to contest parts of Sanaag region, as well as the Sool region and the Buhodle district of Togdheer region during the year. Both governments maintained elements of their administrations in the Sanaag and Sool regions, and both governments exerted influence in various communities. During the year there were renewed hostilities in Las Anod, Sool region.
In September and October at various times pro-Puntland and pro-Somaliland militias clashed in the Las Anod area resulting in an estimated 10 deaths and scores of injured. Humanitarian aid agencies reported that approximately 9,000 families (22,000-54,000 persons) were displaced by the fighting. Somaliland forces captured Las Anod and at year’s end they remained in control of the town with Puntland forces threatening to retake it.(…)
(…) In August Puntland presidential guards allegedly fired at the car of a local aid worker and assaulted and briefly detained him at the presidential villa.
In September gunmen killed a World Health Organization employee who was conducting an immunization campaign in Mudug region.
In October, in Puntland, a group of armed bandits stopped a WFP team traveling on a monitoring and evaluation mission at gunpoint and robbed them of their belongings and communication equipment. According to the UN, there were no investigations or arrests in connection with any of these cases.
In December 26, in Boosaaso port, unknown persons with machine guns seized two foreign employees of Medecins Sans Frontieres when their car was ambushed.
In April the Somaliland Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s conviction of Jama Abdi Ismail and Mohamed Ali Isse, who were sentenced to death in November 2005 for the killing of four foreign aid workers in 2003 and 2004.
(…) * The United States does not have diplomatic representation in Somalia, nor were U.S. government personnel permitted to travel into any of the territory of the former state of Somalia during the year. This report draws in large part on non-U.S. government sources.