Statements by the Somali government and statistics compiled by the United Nations (UN) and other actors indicate that Sexual and GenderBased Violence (SGBV) is widespread and increasing in Somalia. Available statistics indicate that a large percentage of these cases are committed by armed men in uniform. These include members of the Somali National Army, the Somali Police Force and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Somali government, AMISOM, the UN and the international community have all expressed their willingness to address this issue and take positive steps to ensure these offences are addressed and prosecuted.
LAW is undertaking a project on legal responsibility and accountability of the security forces in Somalia allegedly committing SGBV. The project aims to increase access to justice and provide legal redress to survivors of sexual violence allegedly committed by the security forces through the provision of innovative legal assistance. While it is widely acknowledged that a culture of impunity exists amongst security actors allegedly involved in the commission of sexual violence, legal interventions aimed at ensuring accountability for perpetrators have been almost non-existent. LAW’s project aims to address this gap. LAW seeks to achieve this by having constructive dialogue with the Somali government, Somali civil society, AMISOM, the UN and international donors who support the security forces in Somalia to ensure perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable.
As part of its strategy, LAW has a number of activities including:
• Holding discussions with the Somali government, AMISOM, relevant UN bodies and international donors to ensure all the actors understand the applicable laws and context and instill ownership of the process of addressing these abuses within each group;
• Preparing a comprehensive brief on the legal responsibility and accountability of the Somali government, AMISOM, relevant UN bodies and international donors that will provide a detailed explanation of the applicable legal framework as well as a complete set of recommendations for the actors;
• Identifying and implementing key recommendations with stakeholders to address legal responsibility and accountability in addressing sexual violence in Somalia;
• Organizing a high level panel discussion with stakeholders as part of year 2014, ‘16days’ of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign’ aimed at enhancing mechanisms for access to justice within AMISOM.
High Level Panel on Addressing Sexual Violence in Mogadishu, Somalia, 17 May 2016
On 17 May 2016, LAW and the Honourable Minister Zahra Samantar from the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development hosted the second high level panel on addressing sexual violence in Somalia in Mogadishu, Somalia. The panel discussion focused on sexual violence in Somalia and included the following panelists:
- – Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia Mohamed Omar Arte
- – Honourable Minister for Women and Human Rights Development Zahra Samantar
- – Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) Peter de Clercq
- – Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) Francisco Madeira
- – UK Ambassador Harriet Mathews
- – Swedish Ambassador Mikael Lindvall
- – EU Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso
- – Zahra Mohamed Ahmed, Legal Advisor, Somali Women’s Development Centre
LAW’s Executive Director Antonia Mulvey provided an overview of the 2015 high level panel at the beginning of the event, as well as closing remarks summarising the main messages and recommendations.
Panelists discussed the ongoing challenge of high levels of sexual violence being committed in Somalia with near total impunity. The audience, comprised of over 70 members of Somali and international civil society, the Somali government, the donor community and the UN, listened to Somali and international panelists describe the challenges with investigating and prosecuting sexual violence cases in Somalia, the successes made to date and what, in their opinion, is yet to be done.
All panelists agreed that the Sexual Offences Bill was crucial, and must be passed as a matter of urgency. Panelists also discussed a new strategy supported by the Swedish Embassy to for the first time give Somali investigators and prosecutors access to forensic evidence. It was emphasised by the Minister that extensive education, awareness raising and advocacy around this issue was still necessary, and that the momentum to address sexual violence and to pass the Bill must not be lost. Antonia concluded her summary of the event with three words for those in the room to keep in mind as they move forward with the challenge of meaningfully addressing sexual violence in Somalia: courage, leadership and action.
High Level Panel Discussion on Addressing Sexual Violence in Mogadishu, Somalia, 3 March 2015
LAW held a high level panel discussion in Mogadishu on sexual violence in Somalia, and specifically allegations against the AMISOM peacekeeping mission.
Antonia Mulvey chaired the eminent panel comprising Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia (SRSG), EU Ambassador to Somalia, the Minister of Women and Human Rights Development and Director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre a prominent human rights NGO based in Mogadishu.
Panelists discussed sexual violence in Somalia and specifically allegations against the AMISOM peacekeeping mission. It was the first discussion of its kind and we identified concrete ways forward and will hold a second discussion in 6 months. Panellists opened up for questions from an audience of more than 60 people comprised of civil society, UN, AMISOM and INGOs.
Following the discussion at the panel the AU/UN issued a joint statement.
Roundtable on Accountability for Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the Horn of Africa, January 2015
In January 2015 LAW hosted a roundtable on accountability for sexual and gender based violence committed by security forces in the Horn of Africa. Lawyers from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya came together with international legal experts for the first time to discuss strategies to reduce impunity for sexual violations committed by the security forces in the East and Horn of Africa.
Read the Minutes from RT on Accountability of the Security Forces for SGBV in East and Horn of Africa here.