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UN Works to Build Viable Court System in Somalia

Somalia has been without a functioning court system and central government for more than 15 years. This, despite efforts by the UN’s Rule of Law and Security Program to help train a civilian police force and judges for a new court system.

Ghanim Alnajjar is a professor of political science at the University of Kuwait, and a UN independent expert on human rights in Somalia. He told VOA reporter William Eagle, “The UN system is trying to do a lot of work to [establish a judiciary] but [its] target is not to try human rights violators, but to establish a viable court system to hear regular cases.”

Alnajjaar says so far, there are only limited ways to seek punishment for human rights abusers. He says some Somalis are trying to have their cases heard in US courts, although he says the country’s new transitional government is protesting the action. He says he has tried without success to persuade the UN Security Council to establish a special tribunal for Somalia.

But Alnajjar says it will be an uphill battle to end the cycle of impunity in the country: “The problem is that it has been going on for such a long time and the [alleged] perpetrators include some UN staff members who [were] here during Operation Restore Hope in ‘93 and ‘94, and you [also] have the [alleged] perpetrators of former regime of Siad Barre. So the international community has to weigh in on this [and decide] what period are we supposed to deal with. There is [also] a need for national reconciliation…so the issue is quite complicated. We have to look at [the problem from] different angles.”