The United Nations' independent expert on Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar, told reporters in Nairobi Monday reconciliation will never happen in Somalia unless past crimes are dealt with and human rights in general are respected.
"I think there were some human rights violations committed by the past regime and by the United Nations forces, and by the warring factions," Mr. Alnajjar says. "These issues have to be dealt with. Otherwise we will still go onto a vicious circle. People talk about violations. There is no proper legal body to take these charges on board to investigate."
Examples of crimes, he notes, include murder, rape, and robbery.
Mr. Alnajjar, who was appointed as an independent expert by the UN Commission on Human Rights, says Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi is pushing to set up a team to investigate and prosecute past crimes. He says the prime minister also talked about setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to heal the wounds of the past.
Mr. Alnajjar says that during his two-week tour of Somalia and Somaliland, he came across other human rights abuses that need to be dealt with.
Topping the list is prison conditions. The UN expert says he visited three prisons during his tour and was appalled at what he saw.
"Overcrowding, no sanitation, no medical aid, no proper food, no recreation," Mr. Alnajjar says. "To some degree visitation is OK; anything else is not there. My appeal to the donors: to really help in getting something done about prisons as soon as possible because this is really unacceptable."
Another human rights concern, says Mr. Alnajjar, is a custom called "asi walid," in which parents have their children put in jail without a trial, sometimes for long periods of time to discipline them.
Mr. Alnajjar called for the eradication of that custom and another one, female genital mutilation.
The UN expert returns to Nairobi as the new government is setting up offices in the capital Mogadishu and making other preparations for the government to return to Somalia from its current base in Kenya.
The acting head of the 5,500 strong Somali police force Monday rejected the deployment of an African Union peace support mission. The Somali security forces are instead asking for technical support and other aid to be able to carry out their duties.
Somalia fell into anarchy after then-leader Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
The new Somali government, formed after two years of peace talks in Kenya, is expected to be in place in Mogadishu by April.