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Title:  Somalia Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                                 SOMALIA 
 
 
Somalia has been without a central government since its last president, 
dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, fled the country in 1991.  Subsequent 
fighting among rival faction leaders resulted in the killing, 
dislocation, and starvation of thousands of Somalis and led the United 
Nations to intervene militarily in 1992. 
 
Widespread interclan fighting subsided in 1995, apart from occasional 
skirmishes in Mogadishu, Baidoa, and the lower Juba, and an ongoing 
conflict in the northwest.  There was no progress, however, in 
reconciling the rival faction leaders and creating a new national 
government.  In Mogadishu, faction leader Mohamed Farah Aideed was 
elected by his supporters to head a putative national government, while 
in the northwest, the breakway "Republic of Somaliland" continued to 
proclaim its independence.  Neither administration, however, was 
recognized internationally. 
 
The persistent absence of a central government led most regions to 
establish rudimentary local administrations, most based on the authority 
of the predominant clan and faction in the area.  Local authority 
remained contested, however, in the lower Juba, parts of the northwest, 
and Mogadishu. 
 
The United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) ended in March, when 
the last peacekeeping forces were withdrawn.  Security is provided by 
clan-based militias that report to the dominant clan elders and faction 
leaders in each region.  In some cases, these militias are supplemented 
by local police forces that were established under UNOSOM and continue 
to function with varying degrees of effectiveness.  In the continued 
absence of national institutions, the judiciary in most regions of the 
country relies on some combination of traditional and customary justice, 
Islamic (Shari'a) law, and the pre-1991 Penal Code.  In north Mogadishu, 
the middle Shabelle, and parts of Gedo and Hiran regions, where Shari'a 
is particularly entrenched, harsh punishments--including amputations--
are meted out for certain offenses. 
 
While still a desperately poor country, Somalia's economy continued to 
improve in 1995 in comparison to the period of mass starvation in 1992.  
Relative peace in much of the country, coupled with the increased income 
resulting from the excellent 1994 harvest, contributed to this recovery.  
Livestock and fruit exports continued to revive, although the latter 
were disrupted by the closure of Mogadishu seaport during the final 3 
months of the year.  Somalia remains a chronic food deficit country, 
however, and poor rains produced a disappointing harvest in 1995 whose 
effects are likely to be felt by mid-1996.  In some urban areas, the 
departure of UNOSOM dealt a severe blow to local economies that had 
benefited from U.N. contracts and employment.  Lack of income 
opportunities led to pockets of malnutrition in Mogadishu and some other 
communities. 
 
Human rights abuses continued throughout the year.  Due to the decrease 
in interclan fighting, however, there were fewer incidents of 
extrajudicial killing, rape, and violations of humanitarian law than 
there had been in previous years.  Other key problem areas remained the 
lack of political rights in the absence of a central authority, the 
reliance of some communities on harsh Shari'a punishments, societal 
discrimination against women, and the mistreatment of women and 
children, including the near universal practice of female genital 
mutilation. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political or Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
Political violence and banditry have been endemic to Somalia since the 
revolt against Siad Barre, who fled the capital in January 1991.  Tens 
of thousands of Somalis, mostly noncombatants, have died in 
interfactional and interclan fighting (see Section l.g.). 
 
Although many civilians were killed in the course of the fighting during 
the year, politically motivated extrajudicial murder was less common.  
In April a foreign businessman was killed by a small fundamentalist 
group in Burgavo, apparently because of his business dealings with 
General Mohamed Said Hersi "Morgan," a political rival of the 
fundamentalists.  In July, six members of the Marehan Somali National 
Front (SNF) were reportedly murdered in south Mogadishu by members of 
the Habr Gedr subclan linked to General Mohamed Farah Aideed's wing of 
the Somali National Alliance (SNA).   
 
Partly as a result of the 1993 murder of a 16-year-old Somali youth by 
Canadian airborne soldiers assigned to UNOSOM, the Government of Canada 
disbanded the regiment in January.  The previous year, Canadian soldiers 
accused in the case were tried and convicted. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no known reports of unresolved politically motivated 
disappearances, although cases might easily have been concealed among 
the thousands of refugees, displaced, and war dead.  Kidnaping remained 
a problem, particularly for relief workers and critics of the faction 
leaders (see Section l.d.). 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
There were no reports of use of torture by warring militiamen against 
each other or against civilians. 
 
Islamic (Shari'a) courts continued to operate in several regions of the 
country, filling the vacuum created by the absence of normal government 
authority.  Shari'a courts traditionally ruled in cases of civil and 
family law, but their jurisdiction was extended to criminal proceedings 
in some regions beginning in 1994.  In north Mogadishu, the middle 
Shabelle, and parts of the Gedo and Hiran regions, these courts meted 
out severe punishment to persons found guilty of robbery and other 
crimes (see Section l.e.). 
 
For example, in May the Shari'a court in Jowhar amputated the right 
hands and left feet of three men convicted of armed robbery.  The 
severed limbs were displayed in the public square of the town.  Court 
officials in Jowhar confirmed that criminals convicted of looting were 
sometimes stoned to death, although no specific cases were cited.  In 
September a court in the Hiran region ordered a hand and a foot 
amputated from each of three convicted bandits. 
 
Prison conditions varied by region.  Mogadishu's prison was overcrowded, 
with a significant percentage of prisoners suffering from malnutrition, 
according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  
Prisons in Baidoa, Bardera, and Kismayo were rudimentary but not 
unhealthy or overcrowded.  Prisoners were permitted daily outdoor 
exercise and received food rations either from the community or from the 
World Food Program (WFP).  In Bosasso, conditions were similar, although 
male prisoners were chained together at the ankles.   
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Somali factions and armed bandits continued to engage in arbitrary 
detention, including the kidnaping of international relief workers.  In 
some cases, the detention was politically motivated.  For example, 
Mohamed Farah Aideed's wing of the SNA placed Khadija Abdi Fandhe under 
house arrest for 1 week in July after she urged Somali women to support 
Aideed's rival, Osman Hassan Ali "Atto." 
 
Foreigners were frequently the target of kidnapers.  A French employee 
of Action Internationale Contre La Faim (AICF), was seized near 
Mogadishu on December 17, 1994, and held for more than a month by 
Somalis demanding compensation for clansmen who were killed--allegedly, 
while working as security guards for AICF.  Two Italian aid workers were 
kidnaped on February 28 near Garoe as part of a contractual dispute but 
were released within a week.  A German veterinarian was kidnaped in the 
northwest in late May and held for 19 days for unspecified reasons.  In 
December an Italian agronomist was kidnaped near Mogadishu and held for 
several days before being turned over to representatives of General 
Aideed.  In all cases, intervention by local clan elders and the donor 
community resulted in the detainees' release. 
 
In late August, five foreigners, including two Scandinavian diplomats, 
were detained in the breakaway Republic of Somaliland for landing at an 
airfield without authorization.  They were charged in a Somaliland 
court, but the charges were dropped, and all six were released after 8 
days.  Twelve Pakistani fishermen were detained by General Aideed's 
forces at the end of January and held for more than 8 months.  An Aideed 
court found them guilty of illegal fishing, but they were subsequently 
pardoned and released October 6.  On September 17, General Mohammed 
Farah Aideed and members of his militia seized the southwestern city of 
Baidoa.  Aideed's forces occupied the compounds of U.N. and 
nongovernmental organization (NGO) agencies operating in Baidoa and held 
21 expatriates, including 5 Americans, for 5 days.  Through negotiations 
by U.N. officials with Aideed, all the expatriates were released by 
September 22.   
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
There is no national judicial system.  Some regions have established 
local courts that depend on the predominant local clan and associated 
faction for their authority.  These courts render judgments based on 
traditional and customary law, Islamic Shari'a law, the Penal Code of 
the defunct Siad Barre government, or some combination of the three.  In 
Bosasso, for example, criminals are turned over to the families of their 
victims, who exact blood compensation in keeping with Somali tradition.  
In the northwest, the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland continues 
to use the former Somali Penal Code, pending adoption of a new 
constitution and related laws.  In Bardera, courts apply a combination 
of Islamic Shari'a law and the former Penal Code.  In north Mogadishu, 
the middle Shabelle, and parts of the Gedo and Hiran regions, court 
decisions are based solely on Shari'a law. 
 
The right to representation by an attorney and the right to appeal do 
not exist in those areas applying traditional and customary judicial 
practices or Shari'a law.  These rights are more often respected in 
regions that continue to apply the former government's Penal Code.   
 
Following the capture of Baidoa by Aideed's forces in September, at 
least five senior members of the local Rahanweyn community were detained 
and taken to Mogadishu.  Some of them reportedly remained in custody as 
of year's end.  There were no reports of political prisoners being held 
by the various other factions.   
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Looting and forced entry into private property continued but at levels 
reduced from previous years when large urban areas were forcibly 
occupied by invading militiamen.  Such looting occurred in January and 
May, however, during heavy fighting between militia forces of the Abgal 
and Murosade subclans in Mogadishu.  U.N. properties in Mogadishu were 
looted in January by the Abgal and in February by both the Habr Gedr and 
Abgal.  A hospital operated by Indian peacekeepers in Baidoa was looted 
in January, soon after their withdrawal.  The premises of a Dutch NGO in 
Garbahare were forcibly entered on February 25 by nine armed Somalis who 
shot and seriously wounded one international staff member and stole 
$16,000.  All but one of those responsible were subsequently arrested, 
and the money was recovered by community leaders.  NGO warehouses in 
Kismayo and Baidoa were also looted during the year.   
 
Most properties that were forcibly occupied during militia campaigns in 
1992-1993, notably in Mogadishu and the lower Shabelle, remained in the 
hands of persons other than their prewar owners. 
 
   g.   Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 
Internal Conflicts 
 
Warring factions continued to commit violations of humanitarian law, 
including the killing of civilian noncombatants.  In early January, 
fighting between Abgal and Murosade militiamen led to scores of civilian 
dead and hundreds wounded.  Both sides resorted to shelling in densely 
populated neighborhoods, and there was heavy fighting around one 
hospital.  Also in January, following an abortive Hawadle attack on 
Beletweyn, Habr Gedr militiamen burned several Hawadle villages in 
retaliation.  Fighting in Burao between forces loyal to self-styled 
Somaliland president Mohamed Ibrahim Egal and those of a rival militia 
led to hundreds of deaths as well as significant civilian displacement, 
with an estimated 80,000 to 150,000 people forced from their homes.  The 
town was subsequently mined, impeding the civilians' return.  In May 
renewed clashes between the Abgal and Murosade in Mogadishu again led to 
noncombatant casualties, with 17 killed and 54 injured, mostly 
civilians.  Indiscriminate shelling in late August, during hostilities 
in Mogadishu between Habr Gedr and Abgal militiamen, led to dozens 
killed and scores wounded.  Aideed's capture of Baidoa was achieved with 
little fighting but resulted in displacement of up to half the town's 
population according to some estimates.   
 
During the year the ICRC was permitted to visit and verify that both the 
534 prisoners of war held by the self-declared Republic of Somaliland as 
well as prisoners held by the opposition militia were well-treated.   
 
The last of the UNOSOM peacekeeping troops were withdrawn without 
incident on March 3 under rearguard cover provided by U.S. forces. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Most Somalis obtain news from foreign news broadcasts, notably the 
British Broadcasting Corporation, which transmits a daily Somali-
language program.  The major faction leaders in Mogadishu, as well as 
the authorities of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, operate 
small radio stations. 
 
The print media consist largely of short, photocopied dailies, published 
in the larger cities and often linked to one of the factions.  Several 
of these papers are nominally independent and are critical of the 
faction leaders. 
 
Two journalists were detained in south Mogadishu during the year after 
writing stories critical of General Mohamed Farah Aideed's 
administration.  In July, Adan Mohamed Ali, a stringer for the Reuters 
News Agency, was held for nearly 2 weeks under house arrest and then 
later in the Mogadishu Central Prison, which is controlled by Aideed.  A 
U.N. agency successfully negotiated Adan's release on condition that he 
leave Mogadishu.  In September Aideed's forces detained Ali Musa Abdi, a 
stringer for the Agence France Presse News Agency and the British 
Broadcasting Corporation.  He was seized while en route to cover an 
announcement by opponents of Aideed.  Ali Musa Abdi escaped from Aideed 
in September.  Aideed's administration announced plans in August to 
register all foreign journalists and began issuing press passes by late 
September.   
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
Many clans and factions held meetings during the year without incident, 
albeit usually under tight security.  Lengthy conferences were organized 
by local clan leaders in Baidoa, Afmadou, and Gardo.  In Mogadishu both 
Aideed and Mohammed Ali Mahdi held conferences of their respective 
allies early in the year. 
 
Although Somalis are free to assemble in public, the lack of security 
effectively limits this right in many parts of the country.  Few public 
rallies took place during the year.  In the weeks prior to UNOSOM 
withdrawal, supporters of General  
 
Aideed held several demonstrations against plans to deploy a U.S.-led 
rearguard force to protect the departing peacekeepers.  At least one of 
these rallies was forcibly dispersed by militiamen loyal to Osman Hassan 
Ali Atto, a rival to Aideed.  In May a group of Aideed supporters sought 
unsuccessfully to disrupt a meeting of the Somali National Alliance 
Central Committee, convened by Atto in a further challenge to Aideed's 
leadership. 
 
Some professional groups and local NGO's operate in Somalia as security 
conditions permit. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
Somalis are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.  Local tradition and past law 
make it a crime to proselytize for any religion except Islam.  Some 
local administrations in Somalia have made Islam the official religion 
in their regions, in addition to establishing a judicial system based on 
Shari'a law (see Section l.e.).  Non-Sunni Muslims are often looked on 
with suspicion by more mainstream Somalis.  There is strong social 
pressure to respect Islamic traditions, especially in fundamentalist 
enclaves such as Luuq, in the Gedo region.  There is a small, low-
profile Christian community.  Christian-based international relief 
organizations operate without interference. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Freedom of movement continued to be restricted in most parts of Somalia.  
Checkpoints manned by militiamen loyal to one clan or faction inhibit 
passage by other groups.  In the absence of a recognized national 
government, most Somalis do not have documents needed for international 
travel.  As security conditions improved in many parts of the country, 
refugees and internally displaced persons continued to return to their 
homes.  Despite sporadic harassment--e.g., theft of United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees food packages by militiamen--repatriation 
generally took place without incident.   
 
The number of Somali refugees in Kenya dropped to approximately 140,000 
as of the end of the year, down from more than 400,000 at the height of 
the humanitarian crisis in 1992.  In Ethiopia, however, the number of 
Somali refugees increased by some 90,000 during 1995 to a total of 
approximately 275,000, due to the influx of persons who fled fighting in 
the northwest.  A small number of Ethiopian refugees remained in 
Somalia, mostly in the northeast near Bosasso. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens To 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens did not have this right.  There was no national government 
recognized domestically or internationally.  In most regions, however, 
local clan and faction leaders function as de facto rulers.  They derive 
their authority in a variety of ways.  In most of the Gedo region, the 
dominant Marehan subclan's faction, the Somali National Front, rules 
through regional and district councils established under UNOSOM 
auspices.  In the northwest, the self-declared Republic of Somaliland 
was endorsed by clan elders in 1991 and 1993 and has since created 
functional administrative institutions, albeit in only a small portion 
of the territory it claims to rule.  In Kismayo the dominant faction 
leader seized the town militarily in 1993 but is dependent on elders 
from several subclans in order to govern the community.  In June allies 
of General Mohamed Farah Aideed elected him as president of a putative 
central government, which functions as the de facto authority in parts 
of south Mogadishu and the lower Shabelle.  Ali Mahdi and his Abgal 
subclan supporters, in cooperation with leaders of the Islamic Shari'a 
courts function as the governing authorties in north Mogadishu and the 
middle Shabelle.  In Baidoa, formation of a "Supreme Governing Council" 
was agreed consensually in May after lengthy negotiations among members 
of the Rahanweyn clan and its associated faction, the Somalia Democratic 
Movement.  Aideed's forces ousted the "Supreme Governing Council," 
however, when he captured Baidoa in September.   
 
Although several women are important behind-the-scenes figures in the 
various factions, women as a group remain outside the political process.  
No women hold prominent public positions and few participated in 
regional reconciliation efforts. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitudes Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
There were no local human rights organizations active during the year.  
ICRC delegates were permitted to visit prisons in some parts of the 
country, as were Western diplomats.  A representative of Africa Watch 
traveled to Somalia several times during the year to document human 
rights conditions, and Amnesty International also published a report 
during the year.  International humanitarian NGO's and U.N. agencies 
continued to operate, but the poor security situation limited their 
activities in some areas. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
Societal discrimination against women and widespread abuse of children 
continued to be serious problems. 
 
   Women 
 
Women suffered disproportionately in the Somali civil war and in the 
strife that followed.  During the past year, however, there were no 
reports of systematic attacks on women in connection with the continuing 
civil strife. 
 
Women are systematically subordinated in Somalia, which has an 
overwhelmingly patriarchal culture.  Polygyny is permitted, but 
polyandry is not.  Under laws issued by the former government, female 
children could inherit property, but only half the amount to which their 
brothers were entitled.  Similarly, according to the Somali tradition of 
blood compensation, those found guilty in the death of a woman pay only 
half as much (50 camels) to the aggrieved family as they would if the 
victim were a man (100 camels). 
 
   Children 
 
Children remain among the chief victims of the continuing violence in 
Somalia.  Boys as young as 14 or 15 years of age have participated in 
milita attacks, and many youths are members of the marauding gangs known 
as "Morian." 
 
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international experts as damaging to physical and mental health, is 
widely practiced in Somali culture and society.  An independent expert 
in the field estimates that 98 percent of Somali females have been 
subjected to FGM. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There were no laws mandating accessibility to public buildings, 
transportation, or government services for the disabled before the 
collapse of the state.  No functioning government is yet in place that 
could address these issues. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
More than 80 percent of Somalia's people share a common ethnic heritage, 
religion, and nomadic-influenced culture.  The largest minority group 
consists of "Bantu" Somalis, who are descended from slaves brought to 
Somalia about 300 years ago.  In virtually all areas of Somalia, members 
of groups other than the predominant clan are excluded from effective 
participation in governing institutions and are subject to 
discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public 
services. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The 1990 Constitution provided workers with the right to form unions, 
but the civil war and factional fighting negated this provision and 
shattered the single labor confederation, the then government-controlled 
General Federation of Somali Trade Unions.  Given the extent of 
Somalia's political and economic breakdown and the lack of legal 
enforcement mechanisms, trade unions could not function freely in the 
country. 
 
   b.   The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Wages and work requirements in traditional Somali culture are largely 
established by ad hoc bartering, based on supply, demand, and the 
influence of the clan from which the worker originates. 
 
Labor disputes sometimes led to use of force or kidnaping.  For example, 
during a contractual dispute in the northwest region, security guards 
who had been dismissed by a French NGO worker responded by firing shots 
and throwing a grenade at their former employer.  In another case, 
workers blockaded the World Food Program compound in Mogadishu for 3 
days to press demands for severance pay (see also Section l.d.). 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Local partners of multinational fruit export firms reportedly used 
forced labor in some areas of the lower Shabelle. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
Formal employment of children was rare, but youths are commonly employed 
in herding, agriculture, and household labor from an early age. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There was no organized effort by any of the factions or de facto 
regional administrations to monitor acceptable conditions of work during 
the year. 
 
(###)


[end of document]

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