Somalia: In a country fragmented and controlled by clans, torture goes unpunished

Baidoa, Somalia, May 15, 2019: soldier on duty to protect people during dinner © Shutterstock

The new Somali government faces major challenges when it comes to human rights. Gender-based and State violence are endemic. The Somali security forces regularly use torture against suspects. Despite ratifying the Convention against Torture in 1990, Somalia has not implemented any of its recommendations, due to a prolonged armed conflict which caused the State to collapse. The country is still fragmented in territories controlled by clans and terrorist groups, which regularly use torture against civilians. It is now time for the Somali State to step up its fight against torture.

Somalia’s Constitution prohibits all forms of violence, torture, or inhumane treatment. Unfortunately, the Somali Penal Code neither includes a definition of torture, nor criminalises it.

In the absence of a specific legislation, torture has remained rampant and unpunished. The Somali security forces, -and police are the main perpetrators. They use torture as a form of intimidation or as a way to obtain confessions. Somalia is still fragmented and controlled by clan-based militias, including the well-known Al Shabab terrorist group, who torture civilians living under their control.

But inhumane treatment also happens within communities and families. There has been an increase in cases of rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation in the country. In 2020, Somalia had the highest rate of female genital mutilation in the world. A whopping 99.2% of women aged 15 to 49 have been the victims of these intolerable practice.

On November 8, 2022, the CAT's consideration of Somalia's first periodic report took place during its 75º session.

Delegation of country led by the Director-General at the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development of Somalia and head of the delegation ISAK HASHI JIMALE.

Country rapporteurs were Mr. Huawen Liu and Ms. Naoko Maeda.

Main issues discussed during the CAT's review

The co-rapporteur for Somalia, Mr. Liu expressed his concerns about the 1964 Penal Code. To expand, the penal code does not punish assault when the perpetrator is the parent. He elaborated that in the absence of specific legislation in the domestic law judicial authorities did not punish acts that could amount to torture. Mr. Liu stated that ‘for the realisation of human rights, legal reform was always necessary’. The committee expressed their concerns about the use of female genital mutilation as Somalia has one of the highest rates in the world, with 92% per cent of girls and women having been subjected to the practice in 2021. The committee members urged the state to ratify the Sexual Offences Bill to protect the rights of girls and women in Somalia. The Committee remained concerned about insufficient efforts to investigate, penalise and prevent human trafficking. They also expressed their deep concern about the dire situations in detention centres. They asked the state to protect the rights of those who have been arbitrarily arrested, especially those in one of the worst prisons in Somalia, Jubaland.

Watch here Part One and here Part Two of the dialogue with the Committee.

Civil Society Organisation's alternative report

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and its partners, the Coalition of Somalia Human Rights Defenders (CSHRDs) and Horn Afrik News Agency for Human Rights (HANAHR) urged Somalia to increase its efforts to comply with international human rights law and protect civilians against torture and inhumane treatment.

Read our report to the UN Committee against Torture

Recommendations of the CAT available until November 25th, 2022.