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Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia
September 25, 2013

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia

Statement delivered by Valerie Ullrich
Delegation of the United States of America

September 24, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.  The United States thanks the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, for his report.  We strongly support the IE’s mandate, and the need to maintain it could not be greater.  More than twenty years of conflict and lack of effective governance, compounded by famine and the displacement of millions of Somalis, have created a climate of impunity in which human rights and international humanitarian law violations are rampant.  Protection of civilians, who suffer from killings, displacement, sexual violence, and torture, remains paramount.  In this context, the need for the Council to assist the Federal Government of Somalia’s development of mechanisms to promote human rights is vital.

We recognize the steps that the government has taken to address some of these challenges and support efforts to commit to tangible measures to address Somalia’s ongoing human rights crisis.  The creation of the constitutionally-mandated independent human rights commission is another essential step.  The United States stands ready to assist the government as it establishes this commission.  We believe that a broad consultative process, including with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics, religious leaders, and international experts will strengthen such a commission and demonstrate that stakeholders across Somalia are invested in the country’s future success in human rights.  It would be premature, and perhaps counterproductive, to rush through finalizing a human rights roadmap or legislation to establish the commission before this consultative process is completed.  Once established this commission should play a central role in developing an eventual roadmap.  The government’s current draft human rights roadmap should serve as an important expression of principles.

We are deeply concerned by the IE’s reporting on the prevalence of sexual violence, including against children, and note that many of these abuses occurred in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps.  In this regard, the government’s potential efforts to relocate IDPs from Mogadishu to areas outside of the city without providing adequate protections for their human rights and under international humanitarian law are worrisome.  We also remain concerned by the violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict, including the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.  Somalia needs to urgently implement its UN child soldier action plan.  Finally, we are troubled by the numerous attempted and actual killings of journalists.  Somali authorities themselves must ensure that their actions protect and promote freedom of expression.  We are aware that the draft media law contains a number of articles that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression and hamper the independence of the media.  It is our understanding that the government will continue to engage in discussions on possible revisions to this draft law with Somali civil society.  Such consultations are likely to positively impact the draft law.

We agree with the IE’s concluding reflection that after more than 20 years of conflict, Somalia has reached a turning point.  Given the gravity of abuses committed in Somalia, the government must now seize this moment by committing to improve its human rights record, including through the creation of an independent human rights commission.