News / Africa

HRW: Somalia Needs to Better Protect Displaced Persons

Internally displaced Somali women wait for medicine at a Save the Children UK clinic at their camp in Hodan district of Somalia's capital Mogadishu. (File)
Internally displaced Somali women wait for medicine at a Save the Children UK clinic at their camp in Hodan district of Somalia's capital Mogadishu. (File)
VOA News
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Somali government to better protect internally displaced persons living in the capital, Mogadishu, saying many face a "hostile and abusive environment."

In a report Wednesday, the group accuses militias and security forces of serious abuses, including rape, beatings, ethnic discrimination and restricting access to food and shelter.

Internally displaced citizens in Somalia.Internally displaced citizens in Somalia.
x
Internally displaced citizens in Somalia.
Internally displaced citizens in Somalia.
The United Nations estimates up to 1.4 million people are displaced in Somalia, with about half now living around Mogadishu and areas to the south.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 70 new arrivals to camps in Mogadishu who fled there because of famine or fighting between July 2011 and last November.

It says the most threatening problem in the camps is sexual violence, with women and girls there facing a "significant risk of rape."  Those incidents, the group says, often go unreported because victims fear retaliation and social stigma.

The issue gained international attention this year, when a Somali court convicted a woman who said she was raped by government soldiers while living in a displaced person's camp in Mogadishu.  The court also convicted a journalist who interviewed the woman.  Rights groups and media freedom organizations protested the convictions, calling the case politically motivated.

Somalia's Supreme Court released both the woman and the journalist last week, more than a month after they were sentenced to a year in prison.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's report on Somalia to the Security Council in January said more than 800 rape cases were reported between September and November last year in and around Mogadishu.  It said many of the victims were women and children in the camps, and that the issue required "urgent intervention" by the government.

The Human Rights Watch report also focuses on the managers of the camps, or what it calls "gatekeepers" who control resources and the movement of the people living there.  The report accuses the gatekeepers and militia members of diverting or stealing food aid and threatening to confiscate tents provided by international organizations.

It says Somalia's former Transitional National Government did not hold abusive members of security forces and militias accountable, and was largely unable to fill a security vacuum left after al-Shabab militants were driven out of the city in 2011.

Last year, Ethiopian troops helped the Somali government and African Union forces further dislodge al-Shabab from its strongholds in central and southern Somalia.

Human Rights Watch says the improved security and easing of famine in Somalia provide an opportunity for greater access for the international community, and that donors need to stress the importance of accountability for serious rights abuses. It further challenges the new Somali government to show it can ensure the rights of its population, calling that an "important test of its credibility."

In January, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the government will fight murder, rape and corruption, and will appropriately deal with soldiers who commit crimes.

Last month, the government announced the formation of a task force to investigate human rights abuses, including sexual violence against women.  Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon's office said the body will have three months to investigate what he called a "culture of impunity" in Somalia.

Before Mr. Mohamud took office in September, Somalia had not had a stable central government since warlords overthrew then-president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.  The country endured 20 years of conflict and lawlessness until U.N.-backed efforts to form a new government succeeded last year.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs