UN expert urges Somalia to strengthen justice system following attacks

UN expert urges Somalia to strengthen justice system following attacks

A license plate, a sign of return to normalcy in Somalia after the civil war (October 2012). UN Photo/Tobin Jones

17 April 2013 – The Somali Government and international community must continue their efforts to strengthen the East African country’s justice sector in spite of a series attacks on Sunday which killed dozens of civilians including judges and lawyers and injured many more, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.

“In my various visits to Mogadishu, I have been always encouraged by the commitment of the justice personnel and legal aid providers who conduct their duties in a challenging security context,” said the expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari.

On Sunday, armed men targeted an aid convoy close to the airport and stormed the Banadir Regional Court in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The militant group Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“In order to ensure the rule of law and the fight against impunity, the judicial personnel have to be protected and allowed to do their job in a war-torn country like Somalia,” Mr. Bari said.

While the list of dead and injured is still being completed, local non-governmental organizations have confirmed the deaths of Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, head of the Somali Lawyers Association and his associate Abdikarin Hassan Gorod.  Both were working with the Somali Women’s Development Centre.

The two lawyers also provided legal assistance to countless Somalis over the past years, including legal advice to the journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim and an alleged rape survivor he interviewed. The two were convicted earlier this year of one year in prison, but the sentence was later overturned.

“I offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed and injured during the attacks,” said Mr. Bari. “Last Sunday was another terribly sad day for a country that has already suffered so much for so long.”

After decades of factional fighting and lawlessness, Somalia recently took a series of landmark steps to end the country’s eight-year political transition period, including the adoption of a Provisional Constitution, the establishment of a new Parliament and the appointment of a new President and a new Prime Minister.