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UN expert says media's rights being violated by all in conflict

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The following is a 20 March 2008 NUSOJ press release:

JOINT STATEMENT FROM EHAHRD-NET AND NUSOJ ON REPORT OF DR. GHANIM ALNAJJAR, INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOMALIA TO THE SEVENTH SESSION OF THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

Geneva, 20th March 2008

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD/Net) and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), a founding member of the network, would like to welcome the report by Dr Ghanim Alnajjar, the UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia which he presented to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) today in Geneva.

This report reveals once again Dr Alnajjar's commitment to shedding light on the general human rights situation in Somalia, his particular concern for issues which are fundamental human rights and his persistent use and reliance on factual information to provide a detailed picture of the current situation. The report confirms the urgency of the situation and the need for the international community to give human rights in Somalia the attention that it deserves.

The report starts off by describing how the already dire general human rights situation in Somalia has been rapidly deteriorating in recent months. It reveals that all parties in the conflict have committed human rights violations and have not been held accountable for their actions.

The report concentrates on certain key themes and violations. On the issue of violations being committed against internally displaced persons in Somalia it reveals that approximately 60% of the population of Mogadishu have been forced to flee from the capital and has subsequently been subjected to "threats, intimidation, looting, assault and sexual and gender-based violence" during their flight. The report documents how the civilian population as a whole has had to face a "wave of arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions". It also reports on the increasing number of cases of gender-based violence.

Of particular importance is the exposure which Dr Alnajjar has accorded to the current curtailment of independent media and the deliberate violations being committed against journalists. The report reveals that these violations are being carried out by all actors in the conflict and are largely being used as a means of silencing the very few voices speaking out against the abuses being committed against the civilian population.

The report highlights the degree of impunity currently reigning in the country and the fact that perpetrators are largely getting away with denying these human rights violations or defusing them under claims to be fighting a 'war on terror'.

We would like to acknowledge and congratulate Dr Alnajjar on his efforts to meet with and engage with as wide a range of actors as possible - notably with government officials, representatives of the international community, Somali civil society as well as clan and tribal leaders. We firmly believe that for the peace and reconciliation process to be truly successful it must be inclusive.

We would like to welcome Dr Alnajjar's comment that he "is supportive of a peacekeeping operation, provided that it will have a mandate to assist in the protection of civilians and that it will feature a significant human rights component". We firmly believe that any intervention that overlooks the interests of civilians will once again fail to gain the greatly needed support of the population.

We strongly support Dr Alnajjar's call to bring an end to the impunity which has reigned in the country for more than a decade as well as his recommendation that any future investigations into human rights violations must look at both past and present violations.

We call on the Members of the Human Rights Council to ensure that the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia is renewed in its current form and to ensure that the mandate-holder is replaced as soon as possible in order to prevent a protection gap from taking place.

Thank you.

Hassan Shire Sheikh
Chairperson of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Omar Faruk Osman
Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists

To read the full report: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/116/71/PDF/G0811671.pdf?OpenElement

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