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Human Rights Council takes up situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia
The Human Rights Council took up the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia this afternoon, hearing repeated calls for an end to country specific Special Procedures, but also support for the Independent Expert on the situation in Haiti.
Ghanim Alnajjar, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said that when he last briefed the Council, in September 2006, the human rights situation in Somalia had been bad. Almost nine months later, the situation appeared to be much worse. Thousands of people had been killed or injured in the period between December 2006 and April 2007. According to United Nations estimates, close to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu between February and May 2007 due to the fighting, in addition to the more than 400,000 internally displaced persons already scattered around Somalia. Internally displaced persons were subject to threats, intimidation, looting, assault and rape. Many were forced to live in crowded camps where there was a lack of water, food, sanitation, basic health services and shelter. The violence of the past months and the deteriorating security situation were having further detrimental consequences for the protection of women and girls and, according to UNICEF, children had featured prominently in recent fighting as active combatants. The United Nations should encourage greater support to the Transitional Federal Institutions and had to press those institutions to provide protection to the Somali population.
During the interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia, several speakers criticized the country specific mandates, saying that they did not promote human rights, and had a negative effect on the country concerned. However, others pointed to the apparent success of the dialogue between the Haitian Government and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in that country. In that regard, Algeria wondered if the Council could think of a constructive way of expressing appreciation to mandate holders who were able to engender dialogue.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Somalia were Representatives of Germany on behalf of the European Union, Djibouti, the United States and Italy.
At the end of the meeting, the following non-governmental organizations made statements on the country specific reports presented during the day: National Commission of Human Rights of France; Asia Pacific Forum; Centrist Democratic International; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; World Federation of Trade Unions; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Centre Europe – Tiers Monde; Indian Council of South America; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; and Comision juridica para el autodesarollo de los pueblos originarios andinos.
The Council will reconvene on Wednesday, 13 June, at 10 a.m., and will meet until 6 p.m. without interruption. It is scheduled to consider follow-up to its decisions and to consider the report of the group of experts on the situation in Darfur.
Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
The Council has before it the note by the Secretariat on the report of the independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar (A/HRC/5/2), which explains that, owing to the security situation in Somalia, the independent expert has been unable to undertake his mission to Somalia, and is therefore unable to submit a report to the fifth session of the Council. The independent expert intends to give the Council an oral update on the situation of human rights in Somalia during his interactive dialogue with the Member States.
Presentation of the Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
GHANIM ALNAJJAR, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, said that at the time of his last briefing of the Council in September 2006, the situation had been bad. But, almost nine months later, the situation of human rights in Somalia appeared to be much worse. With regard to some key human rights issues in the south and central regions of Somalia, there had been widespread reports of indiscriminate artillery fire in several fierce battles which had taken place in Mogadishu between December 2006 and April 2007. The wounded had been prevented from fleeing or from receiving humanitarian assistance and protection, and urgent deliveries or food aid and other humanitarian assistance were hampered or blocked. It was estimated that thousands of people had been killed or injured in the period between December 2006 and April 2007. With regard to the internally displaced persons, the United Nations estimated that close to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu between February and May of this year due to the fighting.
The Independent Expert highlighted that the figure of 400,000 people was in addition to the more than 400,000 internally displaced persons already scattered around Somalia. Internally displaced persons were subject to threats, intimidation, looting, assault and rape. Many were forced to live in crowded camps where there was a lack of water, food, sanitation, basic health services and shelter. Concerning the National Reconciliation Congress, it would be held in Mogadishu and some 1,325 delegates from within the country and the Somali Diaspora were expected to attend. The National Reconciliation Congress should be seen a positive first step within the broader framework of a reconciliation process for Somalia. On the question on human rights defenders, widespread harassment sometimes culminating in targeted killings of human rights defenders, journalists, humanitarian aid workers and public figures also continued.
With regard to sexual and gender-based violence, the Independent Expert said it was clear that the violence of the past months and the deteriorating security situation were having further detrimental consequences for the protection of women and girls. According to UNICEF, children featured prominently in recent fighting as active combatants, which was completely unacceptable. The recent fighting had also severely affected school enrolment. The situation of economic, social and cultural rights was still of grave concern. The international community was strongly urged to support Somali leaders and civil society in the critical human rights work that must occur if peace and security were to prevail in Somalia. Regarding some recommendations, the United Nations should, among others, encourage greater support to the Transitional Federal Institutions and must press those institutions to provide protection to the Somali population. The United Nations and the Somali authorities must also increase their efforts to address the immediate human needs and protect the human rights of the hundreds and thousands of internally displaced persons scattered across Somalia.
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
ANKE KONRAD ( Germany ), speaking on behalf of the European Union , said that the European Union supported the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia, and deplored the recent fighting in Mogadishu that had caused the deaths of many among the civilian population. The European Union urged all parties to the conflict to commit to an end to hostilities and to return to peace. In view of the humanitarian crisis unfolding and renewed conflicts in various areas, torrential rains and flooding, what measures did the Independent Expert suggest in order to improve the situation, and what could be done to ensure humanitarian access to all in need? Many internally displaced persons were now being evicted from their neighborhoods in order to give way to public institutions; how could their rights be safeguarded? Also, how did the Independent Expert think that women and girls could enhance their situation, and how could human rights be implemented in the judicial context considering that there were a range of different laws in effect?
MOHAMED ZIAD DOUALEH ( Djibouti) thanked the Independent Expert for giving an update on the human rights situation in Somalia. The enjoyment of human rights was denied to the majority of the people in Somalia. Access to basic healthcare services, clean water and sanitation was extremely limited. Djibouti wanted to express its sincere appreciation to the humanitarian aid workers in that country. Djibouti had persistently called upon the Government of Somalia to find a solution to the crisis. The climate of fear that had been created raised concerns among the international community. Djibouti expressed its support for the upcoming conference in order to push the reconciliation process forward.
JAN LEVIN ( United States) said sustainable security and stability were impeded by extremists seeking to destabilize Somalia, tensions between clans, and prevention of troop deployment. The United States wished to see a stable national Government to promote security and stability on the ground. President Bush had appointed a special envoy to lead those efforts and liaise with clan elders, civil society and regional and international partners. The United States would like to hear how it could work with the Independent Expert on those issues.
ROBERTO VELLANO ( Italy) said Italy was strongly committed to support the difficult path of Somalia towards peace and national reconciliation. In Somalia, massive displacement of civilian populations had seriously contributed to human trafficking. In that regard, it had been reported that many people left from Bossasso and undertook perilous journeys by sea, often forced by smugglers to leave the boat far away from the shore. What concrete steps could be taken to prevent and stop such phenomena? Also, Italy would appreciate it if the Independent Expert could elaborate further on the protection of children's rights in Somalia, taking into account the most exposed and vulnerable group of street children.
Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
GHANIM ALNAJJAR, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, said that, when dealing with a place like Somaliland, where there was at least an established government, it was easier to deal with the situation of human rights. He had been in full dialogue with the Government there. Any development had to have human rights components. The issue of internally displaced persons was one that had been going on for ages. A lot of agencies had tried to help, but still the situation was very bad. The main thing was to establish a national unity government with a reconciliation conference. Although some reservations had been expressed about it, that might be able to take them somewhere.
What the United Nations could do was to strengthen the integration of the human rights component in any such process, the Independent Expert said. So far, there was only one human rights adviser, working on a temporary basis. That had to be strengthened. The international community had to push and provide the resources for that kind of commitment, whether it be to deal with the issue of women, children, internally displaced persons or trafficking. The issue of trafficking was much more complicated than the other issues. Regarding the ability of the Puntland authorities to govern the shores and coastlines of Somalia, the international community could help in that matter by providing vessels or a new organization to govern the coastline.
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, Haiti, Cuba, Belarus and Somalia
MARTIN HILL, of Amnesty International, said that serious violations of human rights continued in Somalia, and a strong human rights component in the mandate of the African Union Mission there was needed. The National Reconciliation Congress should give priority attention to protecting the rights to life, personal security and freedom of expression and association. The Independent Expert's mandate should be extended. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should also expand its field mission to Somalia to provide technical assistance and human rights advice to transitional institutions. Transitional Federal institutions should develop an action plan to protect human rights, guarantee safe and unrestricted access for humanitarian agencies to assist displaced persons, and develop mechanisms to investigate past war crimes and crimes against humanity.
SEBASTIAN GILLIOZ, of Human Rights Watch, said Human Rights Watch had documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by most of the armed groups engaged in the conflict in Somalia. All the parties to the conflict in Mogadishu had been responsible for violations, and had used types of weaponry that were inappropriate for urban warfare. The Human Rights Council should support efforts to protect civilians, and investigate and hold accountable those responsible for such human rights abuses. With regards to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus, the Special Rapporteur should recommend measures that the Council could undertake in response to the Government's intransigence.
Source: United Nations Human Rights Council