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Updated: Feb 19, 2023

The Security Council is expected to be briefed on 22 February by Acting Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Kiki Gbeho, AU Special Representative and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Souef Mohamed El-Amine, and a civil society representative. The following is an overview of relevant human rights dimensions, while a political analysis is available from Security Council Report.

Key topics below

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  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights on Laas Caanood clashes (7 February 2023);

  • The High Commissioner commented on the situation (9 December 2022);

  • The Committee against Torture reviewed Somalia (25 November 2022);

  • The Executive Director of UNFPA visited Somalia (11 November 2022);

  • The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Somalia (7 October 2022);

  • The Human Rights Council held a meeting on Somalia (5 October 2022): - The Independent Expert on Somalia presented a report, analyzing the situation against 7 human rights benchmarks and her previous recommendations; - UNICEF offered brief recommendations.

  • Children and armed conflict (2 reports);

  • Women, peace and security (briefing by UNSOM's senior women’s protection adviser, report on sexual violence, SG report on Somalia and NGO recommendations).

  • Joint statement of 14 February 2023: France, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and the US (among others).

  • Human Rights Council meeting on 5 October 2022: The UK, the EU and the GCC.

  • Resolution 2662 of 17 November 2022, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts;

  • Resolution 2657 of 31 October 2022, extending UNSOM's mandate.


Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [741 words]

  1. On 7 February 2023, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, called on the Somali authorities to ensure an independent, effective, and impartial investigation after scores of people were killed in clashes between the security forces and clan members in Laas Caanood that started on 5 February. He called to hold fair trials and determine who is responsible for potentially unlawful killings and reported damage to homes.

  2. On 9 December 2022, the High Commissioner for Human Rights commented on Somalia's humanitarian catastrophe amid the longest and most severe drought in recent history. He reported a steep rise in civilian casualties, most of which are attributed to Al-Shabaab. Serious human rights concerns also include the arrest and detention of journalists, hindering freedom of expression, fostering self-censorship and aggravating pre-existing human rights vulnerabilities. "Protecting human rights is a key component of humanitarian action," he stated.

  3. On 25 November 2022, the Committee against Torture (which monitors the implementation of the convention against torture), presented its concluding observations on Somalia. The Committee was concerned that Somalia had yet to establish a definition of torture as a specific offense in its legislation and to set up a national human rights institution. It called for prompt and impartial investigation into alleged acts of torture and other ill-treatment, including gender-based violence committed by the National Intelligence and Security Agency, the Somali National Army and other actors. The Committee was also concerned by the public executions, overcrowding and poor conditions in Somali prisons, and by reports of life-threatening conditions in detention facilities under control of Al-Shabaab.

  4. On 11 November 2022, Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Natalia Kanem, spoke during her visit to Somalia, expressing concern about soaring hunger and malnutrition, including among pregnant and lactating women, as well as rising gender-based violence. She noted that reports of girls dropping out of school, female genital mutilation and child marriage have become more widespread. Finally, she called on the international community to fund reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention and response services, including mental health and psychosocial support. More recently, UNFPA Country Representative, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape, reported that Somalia has the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, with over 98% of all women above the age of 15 having undergone the "cut."

  5. On 7 October 2022, the Human Rights Council adopted without a vote a resolution 51/38 on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights. The resolution included many calls to action (OP14).

  6. On 5 October 2022, the Human Rights Council held a meeting on Somalia:

  • The Independent Expert on Somalia, Ms. Isha Dyfan, presented her report (A/HRC/51/65) and expressed her appreciation to the Government for its excellent cooperation. She called on the Government to ensure greater participation of women in politics and public affairs, noting that women held only 54 of the 275 seats in the House of the People. Providing data on cases, she noted the lack of accountability for intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, prosecution and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and journalists under the umbrella of the 1964 penal code. She called to amend laws criminalizing the work of journalists and media houses and ensure accountability, in line with international law and the 2012 Provisional Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of expression. She also continued to be concerned about the application of the death penalty in Somalia and more reports about extrajudicial executions by both state and non-state actors. The 7 human rights benchmarks In her report (A/HRC/51/65, para 30 onwards), the Independent Expert analyzed the human rights situation in Somalia against the benchmarks developed in her previous report, which included detailed recommendations (A/HRC/51/65, para 68 onwards):

    1. Increased protection of civilians in conflict.

    2. Strengthened justice, rule of law and accountability mechanisms.

    3. Ensuring respect for freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association.

    4. Promoting women’s rights and gender equality in all aspects of society.

    5. Demonstrated commitment to safeguarding the rights of children and promoting youth empowerment.

    6. Improved access to health care, water, sanitation, hygiene and an adequate standard of living.

    7. Demonstrated commitment to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and minorities.

  • During the same meeting, UNICEF called on all actors to integrate and uphold the centrality of protection. UNICEF also called on all parties to end and prevent grave violations against children. The new Government was also encouraged to accelerate efforts to align the Child Rights Bill and Juvenile Justice Bill with international standards to further enable the protective environment for children.


Information previously considered by the Security Council [435 words]

Children and Armed Conflict

  1. In the SG report on CAAC (S/2022/493) covering the period up to December 2021, the Secretary-General reiterated his call to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which focuses on CAAC, as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; fast-track the endorsement of the child rights bill; endorse the juvenile justice bill and age verification guidelines; and adopt the Sexual Offenses Bill of 2018. He urged the Government to immediately release children from detention and to treat them primarily as victims. Children should only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time (paras 157-158).

  2. In the SG report on CAAC in Somalia (S/2022/397), covering the period up to September 2021, further recommendations were provided (paras 79-92).

  3. The NGO Watchlist on CAAC provides concise analysis and recommendations, in line with the above reports.

Women, peace and security

  1. On 16 November 2022, the senior women’s protection adviser from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) briefed the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security of the Security Council (S/2022/1005). She noted that civilians continued to be exposed to heightened risks of sexual violence, in particular displaced women and children from minority or marginalized groups. The adviser emphasized that the use of customary laws for adjudicating sexual violence cases was a cause of grave concern.

  2. In the SG report on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2022/272) covering the period up to December 2021, the Secretary-General urged the Government to accelerate the adoption of the Sexual Offenses Bill of 2018. He commended the Government’s efforts to finalize a national action plan to implement the joint communiqué on ending sexual violence in conflict and called to implement the policy on human rights adopted by the Ministry of Defense (para 48).

  3. In the SG report on Somalia (S/2022/665) covering the period from 7 May to 23 August 2022, the Secretary-General reiterated the recommendations above and also called to do more to ensure that women are equally and meaningfully included and represented in the political, peace-building, development and security processes in Somalia (para 94).

  4. It is worth recalling that UNSOM’s work preventing GBV should be undertaken using a trauma-informed, survivor-centered approach that places the rights, needs and wishes of survivors at the heart of the planning, decision-making and response, and ensures the delivery of quality, accessible, and non-discriminatory healthcare and comprehensive support, including sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH), psychosocial support, legal services, access to justice, reparations, and support for livelihoods (NGO Working Group on WPS, May 2022 Monthly Action Points).


Comments by Members of the Security Council (and their groups) [387 words]

  1. On 14 February 2023, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) released a press statement with reference to international partners, including inter alia four of the P5.* They were deeply concerned about the shelling of civilian infrastructure and called to immediately stop attacks against civilians. They further called for unhindered humanitarian access to urgently address the needs of those displaced and impacted by the ongoing violence. * The statement was delivered on behalf of ATMIS, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Djibouti, the EU, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Norway, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Russian Federation, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, Uganda, the UK, the US and the UN.

  2. On 5 October 2022, the Human Rights Council held a dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia. The UK expressed deep concern about the marginalization of displaced people, minorities and women; continuing sexual and gender-based violence; restrictions on freedom of expression; and a persisting lack of accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses. The UK urged the Somali Government to establish a National Human Rights Commission and accelerate progress on pending legislation, particularly the Sexual Offences Bill, the Female Genital Mutilation Bill, and the Child Rights Bill. These are crucial to deliver the commitments made in the National Development Plan for 2020-2024. The EU was alarmed by the mass food insecurity and displacement due to the drought. This has left especially women and children increasingly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence. The EU deplored the reported increase in grave violations of child rights, violence against journalists, violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence, and the rising number of cases of female genital mutilation during the past two years. The EU noted that the Government of Somalia has adopted a National Action Plan to address conflict-related sexual violence, but regretted that no legislative framework had been adopted to advance gender equality and empower women in Somalia. The EU called to finalize the review of the penal code, adopt sexual offenses legislation and endorse a Female Genital Mutilation Bill in line with international standards, as well as legislation to protect the rights of children. The GCC countries called to intensify humanitarian assistance and strengthen capacity-building and technical assistance in the field of human rights.


References in Security Council resolutions (not verbatim) [682 words]

  1. On 17 November 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2662, which extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts on Somalia and the renewal of the arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze measures for a further 12 months, by a vote of 11 in favor and 4 abstentions. In the resolution, the Council: Underscored the importance of a holistic and gender-sensitive approach to counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, as well as efforts to address human rights, among other dimensions [PP8 and OP23]; Strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of civilians, including those who are humanitarian personnel, and civilian objects in situations of conflict, as well as the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas and their consequences for the civilian population [PP12]; Urged the Somali Government authorities to further strengthen efforts to address the “six grave violations” against children as identified by the Secretary-General, including by implementing measures in line with resolution 2467 (2019) [PP14]; Requested the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict to share relevant information with the Security Council 751 Committee concerning Al-Shabaab, and invited OHCHR to share relevant information with the Committee [OP48].

  2. On 31 October 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2657, which extended the mandate of UNSOM, by a vote of 14 in favor with 1 abstention. In the resolution, the Council: Noted the importance of effective, strategic communications to the implementation of UNSOM’s mandate, particularly concerning peace-building, state-building, reconciliation, conflict prevention, countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism, civic education, women’s inclusion in political processes, human rights protection, and the youth, peace and security agenda and emphasizing the need to continue to enhance UNSOM’s capability in this regard [PP16]. Encouraged the FGS to deepen cooperation and collaboration at all levels, to: create a conducive political and security environment for more inclusive democratic processes; promote the full equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of decision-making; promote the participation of persons belonging to minority clans and underrepresented groups, youth and persons with disabilities; uphold the rights of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement, including the ability of journalists to operate freely, and condemn hate speech and incitement to violence; enhance civilian oversight of their security apparatus and investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for violations of international law, including IHL and IHRL, and sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, and in this context recalls the importance of the SG's Human Rights and Due Diligence Policy in relation to the support provided by the UN to Somali security forces and ATMIS; [OP8-OP9] Demanded all parties to end and prevent violations and abuses against children, including the continued recruitment and use of children in armed conflict; identify those responsible for such violations and abuses and hold perpetrators accountable; consider primarily as victims those children who are associated with or have been released or otherwise separated from armed forces and armed groups as per the Paris Principles endorsed by the FGS; and cease detention of all children on national security charges where it is in violation of applicable international law [OP10(a) with reference to SG report on CAAC (S/2022/493) and SG report on CAAC in Somalia (S/2022/397)]. Called upon the FGS to: implement fully the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the two Action Plans signed by the FGS in 2012, the roadmap signed in 2019 and the Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of children, strengthen the legal and operational framework for the protection of children in Somalia, and ensure that national legislation pertaining to children, is compatible with its obligations under international law and commitments on the protection of children [OP10(b)]. Recalled the need for the FGS to continue to establish and operationalize the National Human Rights Commission, the Constitutional Court and the Judicial Service Commission in line with the Provisional Constitution and the relevant legislation, and called for specific steps [detailed in the resolution] with regard to the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities and persons belonging to minority groups [OP13].


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