HRD Killed by Stray Bullet, journalists harassed and detained

Somalia and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) called on national security forces to strive to protect children in combat zones as they fight Al-Shabaab militants. In October 2019, Somalia renewed its commitment to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by signing a roadmap detailing measures and practical actions to prevent violations against children, release children associated with armed forces and reintegrate them into communities. On 31st October, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, commended AMISOM for its child protection efforts in conflict.

Association

On 20th November 2019, Somali-Canadian activist Almaas Elman was killed by a stray bullet in Mogadishu while travelling in Halane area. She succumbed to her injuries and passed away in hospital. Elman had been working on peace initiatives, women and children’s rights and social justice in the country. Amnesty International, noting this as an indication of the risks faced by activists in Somalia, called on the government to undertake an impartial, thorough and effective investigation into the killing, make the findings public and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said:

“The death of Almaas Elman shows the risk faced by activists in Somalia… While the authorities have launched an investigation into Almaas’ killing, they must ensure that it is impartial, thoroug, and effective, and that anyone suspected to be responsible is brought to justice in a fair trial. The authorities must also make the findings of the investigation public as soon as it is concluded.”

A new report by DefendDefenders launched in December examined the role played by human rights lawyers in Somalia/Somaliland as they struggle to handle sensitive cases within a clashing cultural and religious context. The report notes that human rights lawyers often face challenges because protection mechanisms specifically geared towards them are largely non-existent. One of the main challenges reported was insecurity, as the existence of the Al-Shabaab militia and its targeted attacks against public institutions and practices deemed “un-Islamic” makes practising law a dangerous occupation.

In one of the interviews included in the report, one human rights lawyer said:

“Lawyers always stand to defend human rights and defend human rights defenders. But there is no support for us”.

Expression

On 4th November 2019, journalists from Al-Jazeera and Reuters were harassed and beaten by police officers while on their way from Aden Adde International Airport where they had finished an assignment. Jama Nur Ahmed, Al-Jazeera Arabic correspondent; Abdinasir Abukar Hared, Al-Jazeera cameraman; Omar Siyad, driver; Mohamed Ali Dahir, Al-Jazeera crew assistant; and Feisal Omar, Reuters journalist, were stopped by the heavily armed officers who confiscated their cameras, pointed guns at them, shot in the air and beat them up.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemned the attack against the journalists. Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of SJS said;

“We condemn the attack against our colleague journalists in the strongest terms possible… Journalists are not enemies, but are messengers, and their attack is not only a violation against press freedom and freedom of expression but also constitutes a human rights violation…Journalists are increasingly facing threats and attacks with no accountability from the state security forces. We call on the federal government of Somalia to immediately launch an investigation into the matter and bring the officers responsible for this attack to justice”.

In Somaliland, a similar case of police harassment towards journalists was reported on 10th November 2019. Police officers, who were accompanied by employees from Deero Group in Hargeisa, assaulted and beat up two TV reporters who were covering a protest by local traders about unpaid dues against the company. The two, Ahmed Nur Isse Mohamed of Bulsho TV and Ibrahim Abdirahman Ibrahim of Horyaal24 TV were beaten up while filming and interviewing protesters, and then taken to Hargeisa Central Police Station where they were detained. They were released later that afternoon without charge but with a warning not to report the police assault or the protest they had been covering.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) strongly condemned the assault.

On 18th November 2019, the Somaliland Ministry of Information suspended Horn Cable TV (HCTV) while security agents detained its chief editor, Abdiqaadir Saleban Aseyr. The police at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) summoned Abdiqaadir, but arrested him without a warrant upon presenting himself. Although the reasons for his arrest were not immediately clear, the station’s Director General, Mohamed Abdi Ilig told the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) that the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Aviation had recently filed two cases against HCTV after the TV station interviewed armed opposition groups in some parts of Somaliland and reported disruptions faced by foreign commercial airlines in the country.

Abdiqaadir was arraigned in court the following day for what authorities cited in court as relating to the TV station’s reporting. The court allowed his detention for seven days for further investigation. The court however overruled the TV station’s suspension, although it remained shut as authorities declined to comply with this order. HCTV continued airing content via satellite and live streaming on its website in Somaliland from its studios in Mogadishu, Nairobi and London.

CPJ’s Sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo said:

"The use of arbitrary arrests and shutdown orders to silence critical journalism does not serve the people of Somaliland, who are entitled to a range of news and opinion… We call on authorities to immediately release Abdiqaadir Saleban and to allow Horn Cable TV to operate without interference."

Condemning the suspension of Horn Cable TV, Secretary General of the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ), Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu said:

"The decision to suspend Horn Cable TV in Somaliland is a clear violation against press freedom and freedom of expression and shows how the authorities in Somaliland are still committed to silence the independent media… We call on the authorities in Somaliland to respect the media freedoms and freedom of expression which is key to a more stable and democratic society."