Somalia Human Rights

Human Rights Concerns

Since the overthrow of Siad Barre's 21-year government in January 1991, civil conflict has torn Somalia apart, leading to the collapse of the state and the economy. Fighting between armed Islamist groups and pro-government forces has subjected southern and central Somalia to violence and instability. Civilians are killed and injured as a result of indiscriminate attacks and generalized violence, and conflict has forced over two million people to leave their homes, seeking refuge as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighboring countries. Access by aid agencies to civilians and the displaced is restricted by armed groups and insecurity. Humanitarian workers, journalists and human rights activists are at risk of killings and abductions. Armed groups control most of southern and central Somalia and they often carry out unlawful killings, torture and forced recruitment. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) controls only part of the capital Mogadishu and there is no effective justice system. Serious human rights abuses, including war crimes, are met with impunity. Somalia continues to carry out the death penalty.

Indiscriminate attacks
In the conflict that has engulfed central and south Somalia, no distinction is made between civilians and combatants. All parties to the conflict use mortars and heavy weapons in areas populated or frequented by civilians, killing and injuring thousands of people, many of which are women and children under 14. Education suffers because school buildings are damaged and destroyed during indiscriminate attacks in urban areas. In Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, many schools have closed down as students and teachers fear being injured and killed on their way to school.

Over two million people have been displaced by fighting, insecurity and poverty. One and a half million people have been internally displaced, many seeking refuge in settlements with little or no access to humanitarian aid. Overcrowding in camps undermines refugees' access to essential services, including shelter, medical aid, water, and education. In some areas, people are forcibly evicted from resettlement sites, following acquisition of land by private owners for development purposes. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to other countries, and despite the risks related to conflict and violence, thousands have been deported back to southern and central Somalia by Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Restrictions on humanitarian aid
Southern and Central Somalia is gripped by a humanitarian emergency, in which the very survival of Somalis is threatened because armed groups deny them access to humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid to Somalia from organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) is often diverted to armed groups. Al-Shabab has severely restricted humanitarian access in most of southern and central Somalia by banning UN and international agencies working in areas under al-Shabab's control, and arbitrarily closing national organizations, which the group sometimes accuses of "spying" for the international community. These restrictions, coupled with armed conflict and displacement, have serious human rights implications, compounded by severe drought. According to the UN, two million Somalis are in urgent need of aid, and one in six children in central Somalia is malnourished.

Freedom of expression- journalists and civil society
Somali journalists and civil society organizations face regular intimidation by armed groups. Activists are forced into exile due to the threat of killings and abductions. Radio stations are shut down or prevented from covering certain topics by both the government and armed groups.

Child soldiers
In Somalia recruitment of children is widespread, mainly by armed groups opposed to the TFG. Boys as young as nine years old, alongside young men, are forcibly recruited by the Islamist group al-Shabab. Girls are recruited to cook and clean for al-Shabab forces and forced to marry al-Shabab members. Somalia's TFG forces are also responsible for recruiting, using, killing, and maiming children in armed conflict.

Abuses by armed groups
Armed groups unlawfully kill and torture people they accuse of spying or not conforming to their own interpretation of Islamic law. They kill people in public, including by stoning them to death, and carry out amputations and floggings on the orders of quasi-judicial bodies operated by local leaders with links to armed groups. Individuals "tried" under these bodies do not appear to benefit from any due process guarantees, including legal representation or possibility of appeal. Armed Islamist groups also impose restrictive dress codes, flogging women who do not wear the hijab and forcing men to wear trousers no longer than the ankle. Al-Shabab imposes strict restrictions on the right to education, preventing some girls from attending school, banning certain subjects from being taught, or using schools to indoctrinate children into participating in fighting.

Armed piracy off the Somali coast threatens the life and safety of maritime crews and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia by sea. Piracy, the result of years of armed conflict, lawlessness and economic deprivation following the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, is also fuelled by the thriving arms trade to and within Somalia. According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, pirates have easy access to weapons in Somalia and are able to purchase them through the money obtained from kidnappings and ransoms and some leading pirates are probably responsible for arms embargo violations.

According to independent observers, the presidential elections were held in June 2010 in the Republic of Somaliland were generally free, fair, and peaceful, however media freedom organizations reported some instances of restrictions on journalists in the lead-up to the elections. Clashes between armed groups and Somaliland security forces displaced thousands of people, forcing them to live in difficult conditions. Minority groups in the region face regular discrimination. As with the semi-autonomus Puntland, Somaliland is not currently internationally recognized as a separate country from Somalia.

Somalia Newsroom

September 30, 2019 • Press Release

U.S. Military Shows Appalling Disregard for Civilians Killed in Somalia Air Strike

An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that three men killed in a U.S. military air strike in March after being targeted as “Al-Shabaab terrorists” were in fact civilian farmers with no evidence of links to the armed group.

May 22, 2019 • Press Release

Catastrophic failure as civilians ravaged by war violations 70 years after Geneva Conventions

The UN Security Council must mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions this year by ending its catastrophic failure to protect millions of civilians around the world whose lives and livelihoods are routinely ravaged by violations of the laws of war, Amnesty International said today.

April 5, 2019 • Press Release

AFRICOM Civilian Casualties Reporting Must Be Amended

Responding to a press release by the U.S. Africa Command acknowledging an April 1, 2018 airstrike killed two civilians, Daphne Eviatar, the director of Security With Human Rights at Amnesty International USA stated: “AFRICOM’s acknowledgement of civilian casualties is an important step forward from their previous denials of any civilian deaths or injuries from US …

March 19, 2019 • Report

The Hidden US War in Somalia

The US government must carry out impartial, thorough investigations into credible evidence its rapidly escalating air strikes in Somalia have killed numerous civilians, Amnesty International said in a new report today. The Hidden US War in Somalia details how 14 civilians were killed and eight more injured in just five of the more than 100 …

March 6, 2019 • Press Release

Trump Administration Makes Shameful Decision to Shroud Civilian Casualties in Secrecy

Reacting to news that the Trump administration has revoked a part of an Obama executive order requiring reporting on civilian casualties, Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International USA’s Director of Security with Human Rights stated: “This is a shameful decision that will shroud this administration’s actions in even more secrecy with little accountability for its victims. “The public deserves to know how many …

June 1, 2018 • Press Release

Amnesty International Calls on US to Investigate All Claims of Civilian Casualties

Responding to the Pentagon’s report on US civilian casualties to Congress, Daphne Eviatar, Director of Security with Human Rights at Amnesty International USA stated: “The Defense Department has deemed that the vast majority of claims of civilian casualties are not credible without ever investigating them. Its numbers therefore likely severely undercount the actual civilian death …

April 18, 2018 • Report

Trump threat puts European role in lethal US drone strikes under new scrutiny

As the Trump administration prepares to further expand the US’s lethal drone program, increasing the risk of civilian casualties and unlawful killings, Amnesty International is calling on four European countries to urgently overhaul the crucial operational and intelligence assistance they provide to the program. Amnesty International and others have documented cases, under successive US administrations, where …

December 20, 2017 • Report

Somalia: Refugees pressured to leave Dadaab return to insecurity, drought and hunger

Thousands of Somali refugees who were pressured into leaving the Dadaab camp in Kenya are now facing drought, starvation and renewed displacement in Somalia, Amnesty International said today.

May 25, 2017 • Press Release

Discriminatory Muslim Ban Again Defeated in Court

Following a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals blocking President Trump’s revised Muslim ban, Margaret Huang, executive director Amnesty International USA had the following reaction:

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

Human rights are under threat: