4 February 2013

Somalia: Govt Setting Up Task Force On Human Rights

Somali's Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon, has said his government will shortly set up an Independent Task Force on Human Rights to investigate human rights violations, abuses against women and violence against journalists.

In a statement, released on Sunday (February 3rd), the Prime Minister said the government was committed to upholding human rights and freedom of expression. He specifically referred to reform of the judiciary which he described as "under-resourced and lacking the needed capacity to meet today's challenges", noting that this was one of the government's six leading priorities. The Prime Minister underlined that the crime of rape was completely intolerable in Somalia culture and stressed the importance of encouraging "any victim of sexual violence, to come forward and report such attacks, which must then be investigated and prosecuted". He said the government was encouraged by a sharp drop in incidents since it made its involvement clear.

The Prime Minister also emphasized the government's support for press freedom and freedom of expression. He said journalists perform a critical role and the government wanted them to be able to work without fear or favor. They should be protected. He said a free press was at the heart of every democracy and was guaranteed under Somalia's new constitution. The Government, he said, was working hard to uphold the rule of law, and it had come a long way in a very short time. He pointed to the success in improving the security situation and stamping out illegal activities in Mogadishu. It had removed more than sixty illegal checkpoints that had been were extorting more than US$1 million a month from people.

The Prime Minister said Somalia had "an independent judiciary in Somalia" and "it is for the court - not the government- to establish the rights and wrongs of any case brought by police." He noted that the new Independent Task Force on Human Rights would be formed from diverse backgrounds, including people drawn from human rights associations, the media, the police and other sectors of society.

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