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Recent Events/News

MeToo, AidToo: the Next Steps: Geneva, 22 March 2018

LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey spoke with IRIN senior Editor, Ben Parker, for his article ‘MeToo, AidToo: The Next Steps’ which discusses sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.

Antonia called for more prosecutions of serious cases. She noted that often when staff abuse their power in order “to obtain sex in fragile or conflict-affected areas,” their actions are deemed sexual exploitation and abuse. “This is incorrect,” she said, “this is rape… We must start calling this conduct rape and demand that perpetrators are criminally prosecuted.”

You can read the article in full here.

Working better together for the future of Somalia: Mogadishu, 1 March 2018

LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey spoke with IRIN senior Editor, Ben Parker, for his article ‘MeToo, AidToo: The Next Steps’ which discusses sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.

Antonia called for more prosecutions of serious cases. She noted that often when staff abuse their power in order “to obtain sex in fragile or conflict-affected areas,” their actions are deemed sexual exploitation and abuse. “This is incorrect,” she said, “this is rape… We must start calling this conduct rape and demand that perpetrators are criminally prosecuted.”

You can read the article in full here.

Due Process and the Rule of Law in Somalia: Mogadishu, 5 February 2018

On 5 February 2018, Legal Action Worldwide held a high-level panel discussion in Mogadishu on allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law by security forces in south central regions of Somalia, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. The panel, chaired by LAW’s Executive Director Antonia Mulvey, discussed the key findings and recommendations from the report ‘Due Process and the Rule of Law in Somalia,’ soon to be released by LAW. A copy of the Preliminary Key Findings and Recommendations are now available here.

The Swedish Ambassador to Somalia Hon. Andreas von Uexkull opened the event. Panellists included high profile members of the Somali government, civil society and the UN: Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Victor Lelei, Somali Youth Cluster Coordinator Muna Hassan and UN Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) Human Rights Chief Kirsten Young.

Research by LAW identified four key violations that are occurring in Somalia, perpetrated by Security Forces: the right to liberty and security through arbitrary arrests and detention; the right to fair trial before military courts; the right against torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and the right to life through summary executions and extrajudicial killings.

A key recommendation of LAW’s report is for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into credible allegations of serious due process violations. This includes the establishment of an Independent Commission and for the Attorney General’s office investigation unit to be sufficiently resourced; that a National Security Law, Office of the Ombudsman Law, Legal Aid Law, Sexual Offences Bill, Anti-Torture Law, Counter-terrorism Bill and Land Law be enacted; that external oversight systems of the security forces be developed and existing initiatives be better coordinated and supported; and that access to justice for victims of due process violations be increased by establishing an Independent Complaints Mechanism in pilot IDP camps.

You can read the full media release for this event here.

16 Days of Activism 2017: 25 November -10 December 2017

The UN 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence takes place every year between 25 November and 10 December (International Human Rights Day). Around the world, organisations and institutions Orange the World,” using the colour designated by the UN to campaign to symbolise a brighter future without violence for women.

For the 2017 16 Days of Activism, Legal Action Worldwide prepared a series of info-images that informed our followers about violence against women, and the steps being taken to combat violence against women. On International Human Rights Day, LAW released a short video interviewing different civil society actors in Somalia about the importance of the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. You can watch the video, and see LAW’s info-images here.

How to Create an Advocacy Campaign, Mogadishu: 18 – 21 November 2017

On 18 – 21 November 2017, LAW conducted a training on creating an advocacy campaign for civil society organisations in Mogadishu, Somalia. The training was facilitated by Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) and award-winning, Mogadishu-based international video journalist Christina Goldbaum. It was supported by the Canada Fund for Legal Initiatives and attended by 20 Somali activists, 13 of whom were women. The training focused on the development of advocacy strategies and materials designed to increase the engagement of Somali civil society with government decision-makers and the international community. You can read more about this training here.

The training also resulted in a real joint advocacy statement developed by participants during the session on written advocacy techniques, relating to the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill. This statement was subsequently circulated amongst a wider circle of civil society organisations and was released on International Human Rights Day.

You can read the joint advocacy statement in full here.

Training and Roundtable for South Sudanese Lawyers: Naivasha, 6- 11 November 2017

On 6 – 10 November 2017, LAW conducted a training on documentation of human rights violations through testimony and video for South Sudanese lawyers in Naivasha,  Kenya. The training was supported by Allen and Overy and co-hosted by Witness a global organisation focused on using witness testimony and video to document human rights violations.

On 11 November, LAW held a roundtable with the lawyers and activists who had attended its five day training on documenting human rights violations to discuss possible avenues for increasing access to justice for such violations in South Sudan. The roundtable was also attended by regional and international lawyers who provided participants with practical information and advice about the available options for engagement regionally and internationally. The roundtable resulted in the adoption of practical, creative ways forward for increasing access to legal redress for those who have suffered from human rights violations in South Sudan.

You can read more about these events here.

Panel Discussion on Somalia and the WPS Agenda, Geneva: 26 September 2017

Alongside the UK and Swedish Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, LAW organised a panel discussion on ‘Somalia and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’ as a side event to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. Around 50 people, representing more than 15 countries, attended the event, which was held the at the Palais des Nations on 26 September.

Chaired by LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, the esteemed panel included:

  • Somali Ambassador to the UN,  Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed;
  • Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard;
  • UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite; and
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga.

The panel discussed key issues around the challenges and opportunities for Somalia’s post-conflict state-building process to pursue the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS Agenda). Topics included the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, the participation of women in Somali governance and what more the international community can do to assist Somali in implementing the WPS agenda.

Somali Prime Minister talks about the Sexual Offences Bill, Geneva: 22 September 2017

During his speech before the General Assembly on 22 September 2017 the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre, mentioned the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. 

He described the Bill as “soon-to-be approved” and noted that it will “provide the tools to fight impunity of sexual perpetrators.” Further, he observed that “[E]ven though we are fond of our tradition, it should never be a reason to condone impunity and my government is determined to find ways to harmonise our traditional dispute resolution and our conventional justice system in a manner that respects the human rights of its people.”

You can watch the speech in full, here.

LAW’s Antonia Mulvey acknowledged in new book, London: June 2017

LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, has been mentioned in the acknowledgements of new book by Dexter Dias QC, The Ten Types of Human: A New Understanding of Who We Are and Who We Can Be (William Heinemann). The book combines social psychology, neuroscience and human rights research to explore the best and worst aspects of human behaviour. The book goes into depth on the topics such as child soldiers and female genital mutilation – the context in which Antonia and LAW, are mentioned.

Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, Geneva: 21 June 2017

On 21 June, LAW attended Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. This was held in the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Speakers included Veronika Bard, Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Geneva.

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: 19 June 2017

Alongside the UK and Swedish Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, LAW organised a panel discussion on ‘Somalia and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’ as a side event to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. Around 50 people, representing more than 15 countries, attended the event, which was held the at the Palais des Nations on 26 September.

Chaired by LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, the esteemed panel included:

  • Somali Ambassador to the UN,  Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed;
  • Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard;
  • UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite; and
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga.

The panel discussed key issues around the challenges and opportunities for Somalia’s post-conflict state-building process to pursue the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS Agenda). Topics included the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, the participation of women in Somali governance and what more the international community can do to assist Somali in implementing the WPS agenda.

LAW joins two key networks: May 2017, Nairobi

LAW has been added to two key civil society networks.

Namati is a global movement of grassroots legal advocates, who give people the power to understand, use, and shape the law. Namati focusses on the challenges of protection of community land, the pursuit of environmental justice, securing citizenship rights and realising the right to health.

Prevent GBV Africa is a network of activists and organisations working to prevent violence against women, mainly in the Horn, East, and Southern Africa.

 

Legal Inequities for Women in the Middle East, 23 March 2017, LSE, London

On March 23rd, Antonia Mulvey, LAW’s Executive Director spoke at the LSE Kuwait Programme-LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security workshop on ‘Legal Inequities for Women in the Middle East.’ Antonia’s presentation, ‘Assessing the Role of Security Forces on Women in Conflict Zones: Perspectives from International Law’ explored how sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by security forces may constitute rape as a war crime and/or crime against humanity.

 

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017

8 March is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, LAW prepared profiles of some of the inspiring women that we work with. You can read  LAW’s profiles of Hanan Omar, Deqo Abdi Olad, Faiza Abdi Mohamed and Kelly Matheson in full on LAW’s Facebook page.

Call to Action High-Level Panel, 1-2 March 2017, Geneva

On 1-2 March 2017, LAW’s Geneva-based legal fellow, Jitka Vrtelova, attended the High-level panel on Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies with such panelists as Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF or Director General of ECHO. LAW is a member of Call to Action; for more information about the initiative, see here.

Training on Using Video to Document Evidence, January – February 2017, Mogadishu

On 28 January- 2 February 2017, LAW conducted a training on the use of video for evidence collection and advocacy purposes with a group of lawyers, paralegals and human rights activists in Mogadishu. The training was supported by the Australian Embassy and co-hosted by Witness, a global organisation focused on using video to document human rights violations, and Documist, a Nairobi-based videography organisation with expertise in using video for advocacy around human rights issues.

FGM Expert Roundtable, 20 January 2017, London

On 20 January 2017, LAW’s executive director, Antonia Mulvey, chaired an expert roundtable on how FGM can amount to torture under international law and how, in certain circumstances, may amount to a crime against humanity. The roundtable, hosted by Hausfeld in London, brought together senior barristers, solicitors and civil society actors from the UK and Somalia.

This contributes into LAW’s wider work on addressing FGM. You can read more about this work here.

UPDATE: In Spring 2017, Antonia Mulvey published two blog posts through LSE Centre for Women, Peace & Security on this topic. You can read them here.

Elder Consultations and Urban Land Management Workshops, 10-12 January 2017, Garowe

 

On 10-12 January 2017, LAW facilitated Elder consultations and Urban Land Management workshops Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on regulations formalising land dispute mechanisms. Here, Elders provided input on what role they should take in Land Dispute Committees that will be established in Puntland in 2017. Currently, Elders resolve 90- 95% of land disputes in the State.

The workshops and consultations follow the publication in 2016 of a report by LAW and UN Habitat, “Harmonisation of Legal Systems Resolving Land Disputes in Somaliland and Puntland.”  You can read more about LAW’s work on land dispute mechanisms in the Horn of Africa here.

 

International Human Rights Day, Somali Sexual Offences Bill, 10 December 2016

For International Human Rights Day, LAW released a short video raising awareness of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. It is hoped that 2017 will be the year when the Bill becomes law throughout Somalia. You can read more about LAW’s work on the Somali Sexual Offences Bill here.

International Human Rights Day

It was International Human Rights Day over the weekend and an opportunity to reflect on all the progress made. The Somali Sexual Offences Bill has still not been passed but we hope that next year we can add this to the list of successes to celebrate.

Posted by Legal Action Worldwide on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rift Valley Institute Forum, 18 November 2016, Nairobi

In November 2016, LAW’s legal adviser, Clare Brown, presented at the Rift Valley Institute Forum. She discussed accountability for sexual violence in South Sudan, a topic on which LAW published a report in May 2016.

In July 2016, hundreds of women were raped, allegedly government forces (SPLA) and aligned militia, in a period of escalated violence in Juba. On 11 July 2016, SPLA forces broke into the ‘Terrain Hotel,’ an encampment known to host international aid workers. A number of aid workers were raped, while others were tortured and beaten. A prominent South Sudanese journalist was shot and killed by forces.

 You can read more about LAW’s work in South Sudan here.

Land Dispute Mechanisms Report Launch, November 2016, Hargeisa and Garowe

In early November 2016, LAW and UN-Habitat formally launched their report “Harmonization of the Legal Systems Resolving Land Disputes in Somaliland and Puntland” in Hargeisa and Garowe. The report makes recommendations on harmonising the formal and customary systems to resolve disputes over urban land in Puntland and Somaliland. The report was originally published in March 2016.

Alongside the launch, LAW and UN Habitat also organised a series of workshops with women and elders to get their feedback and input on Land Dispute Tribunals in Somaliland and Puntland, how they function, and how they can be improved.

You can read more about LAW’s work on land disputes and displacement issues here.

Antonia Mulvey appointed Visiting Fellow at LSE Centre for Women, Peace & Security, October 2016, London
Antonia Mulvey appointed Visiting Fellow at LSE Centre for Women, Peace & Security

LAW is excited to announce that our Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, has been made a Visiting Fellow at London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security.

The Centre for Women, Peace and Security is a leading academic space for scholars, practitioners, activists, policy-makers and students to develop strategies to promote justice, human rights and participation for women in conflict-affected situations around the world.

Through innovative research, teaching, and multi-sectoral engagement, the Centre aims to promote gender equality and enhance women’s economic, social and political participation and security. The Centre’s work is grounded in two key initiatives, specifically United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), which was launched by William Hague, then UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy.

Antonia’s research at the Centre will focus on sexual exploitation and abuse by security forces and whether, in certain circumstances, it can constitute international crimes. Emphasis is placed on using legal arguments to create practical and positive change in the actions of security forces and creating a new dialogue on the issue.

Gender-Based Violence Roundtable, 29 September 2016, Beirut

On 29 September 2016, LAW chaired a roundtable in Beirut with lawyers and legal experts to discuss challenges and strategies for increasing accountability for gender-based violence (GBV) committed in Lebanon, with a focus on trafficking, rape and domestic violence. Information available indicates that these offences are being committed in very high numbers across Lebanon and that very few of these crimes are successfully prosecuted.

You can read more about LAW’s work in Lebanon and Syria here.

 

 

Women in and at War Conference, 14-15 September 2016, Milton Keynes

On 14 and 15 September 2016, LAW attended the 3rd Women in and at War Conference at the Open University Law School in Milton Keynes. The conference is organised every other year by The Open University Law School, The University of Warwick and Aberystwyth University, and focusses on gender and the role of women in conflict.

LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, presented her research on sexual exploitation and abuse by security forces and whether, in certain circumstances, it can constitute international crimes.

Other topics discussed include the prosecution of gender-based crimes at the International Criminal Court,  gender and transitional justice, gender in the context of the Syrian Conflict, and  the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325.

 

Public Consultations + Technical Workshop on the Somali Citizenship Bill, Summer 2016, Mogadishu

Public consultations on the Citizenship Bill, supported by UNHCR and facilitated by the Somali Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs (MOIFA), were held on 28- 30 July. The attack on Mogadishu International Airport on 26 July 2016 prevented LAW from attending.

On 17 August 2016, LAW facilitated a technical workshop to incorporate the feedback from the public consultations  into the Bill. The workshop resulted in the production of a final draft version of the Bill, which contains protections for women, minorities and stateless people. 

LAW is currently undertaking an extensive comparative research project, exploring citizenship laws around the world. This work will inform advocacy in 2017 to assist the passage of the draft Bill.

You can read more about LAW’s work on the Somali Citizenship Bill here.

High Level Panel on Addressing Sexual Violence, 17 May 2016, Mogadishu

participants 2On 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
  • Attorney General Ahmad Ali Dahir
  • 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.

zahraPanelists 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.

zahra samatarAll 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.

Commission on the Status of Women: 14-15 March 2016, New York

panelcLAW attended several side events to the Commission on the Status of Women in New York and was a panellist at event entitled ‘Mobilizing for Women’s Equal Nationality Rights: Lessons learned across regions’. The event was organised by the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), who coordinates the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights. A link to an event description on WRC’s website can be found here.

At the event, LAW had the opportunity to speak with many other people advocating for changes in women’s citizenship globally. Nationality laws in over 60 countries do not award equal citizenship rights between men and women. Twenty-seven of those countries, including Somalia, do not permit a woman to pass on her nationality to her children on an equal basis with the children’s father. On the panel, LAW discussed the progress being made on the Citizenship Bill in Somalia, including successes that may be transferred to other regions experiencing similar challenges.

UN-Habitat Global Land Tool Network: 11 & 12 March 2016

In early November 2016, LAW and UN-Habitat formally launched their report “Harmonization of the Legal Systems Resolving Land Disputes in Somaliland and Puntland” in Hargeisa and Garowe. The report makes recommendations on harmonising the formal and customary systems to resolve disputes over urban land in Puntland and Somaliland. The report was originally published in March 2016.

Alongside the launch, LAW and UN Habitat also organised a series of workshops with women and elders to get their feedback and input on Land Dispute Tribunals in Somaliland and Puntland, how they function, and how they can be improved.

You can read more about LAW’s work on land disputes and displacement issues here.

Land Dispute Resolution in Puntland and Somaliland – Report Launch: 9 March 2016 

LAW and UN-Habitat jointly launched the report “Harmonization of the Legal Systems Resolving Land Disputes in Somaliland and Puntland” on 9 March 2016. The report was written by LAW as part of a project with UN-Habitat, operating under the Joint Programme of Local Governance and Decentralised Service Delivery (JPLG), as well as the Ministries of Interior in Somaliland and Puntland State of Somalia. It describes how land disputes are currently resolved in Somaliland and Puntland through the customary and formal legal systems, including in the Land Dispute Tribunals (LDTs) in Somaliland and the land dispute resolution committees (LDRCs) in Puntland, and challenges and advantages of each system. It then makes recommendations about how these systems can be best harmonized in the context of the LDTs and LDRCs.

ReportaThe launch featured a panel of land experts and stakeholders and was jointly chaired by LAW and UN-Habitat. Panellists discussed key issues and challenges relating to land dispute resolution in Somaliland and Somalia; engaged the audience in a discussion on the transformative potential of the LDTs and LDRCs in solving these issues, and brought together stakeholders from the government, the UN and civil society to agree together how to move forward. The event was very well attended and all participants agreed to work together and on ways forward.

You can read more about LAW’s work in this area here.