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.
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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs