Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of Transitional National Government: Abdiqasim Salad Hassan
Head of Somaliland Republic: Dahir Riyale Kahin (replaced Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in May)
Head of Puntland Regional State: Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

Hundreds of civilians were killed in faction fighting in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Puntland, Gedo and other regions. Faction-linked militias were also responsible for kidnappings and rape. There was no effective national or regional rule of law. Courts did not provide fair trials. Faction leaders and the transitional government signed a cease-fire at the start of ongoing peace talks in Kenya, but outbreaks of fighting continued. Journalists were detained in Somaliland and Puntland, and in Puntland the authorities detained demonstrators and political opponents. Human rights defenders were frequently at risk from faction militias. People sentenced to death by Islamic courts were executed.


The Transitional National Government (TNG), established for three years in August 2000 under a Charter adopted at the Arta Conference in Djibouti, did not succeed in establishing national government, police or judicial structures or moving towards elections. There were major humanitarian problems and few basic social facilities such as schools and medical centres. The TNG controlled only a small part of Mogadishu. It was opposed by the Somali Reconciliation and Reconstruction Council (SRRC), a loose and changing coalition of nearly 20 clan-based political-military factions, supported by Ethiopia. SRRC factions frequently fought with TNG police and militias in Mogadishu, and there was faction fighting in Baidoa and in Gedo region.

The self-declared independent Somaliland Republic was still the only part of the disintegrated state of Somalia to have peace and government. President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, whose term of office had been extended for a year in February, died in May and was succeeded by his Vice-President, Dahir Riyale Kahin. There were district multi-party elections in December and presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for early 2003.

There was increased tension towards the end of the year between Somaliland and Puntland over Puntland's claim on parts of Sool and Sanag regions in the east. Four people were killed during an assassination attempt against the Somaliland president, reportedly by Puntland militias, when he visited Sool in December.

In the Puntland Regional State, declared in 1998, the presidency was claimed both by former president and SRRC member Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who had refused to step down on completion of his three-year term in July 2001, and by Jama Ali Jama, who had been elected by a traditional elders' conference in November 2001. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's forces on several occasions attacked Jama Ali Jama's forces, killing dozens of militia members and civilians. A civil society initiative failed to reconcile the rival groups. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, already holding the Puntland capital of Garowe, captured Bosasso port in May and commanded sufficient recognition to attend the Somali peace talks as president of Puntland.

There was further international involvement with reconstruction through the UN and international and Somali non-governmental organizations. Humanitarian workers were at great risk and several Somali staff were kidnapped or killed.

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, US-led forces conducted aerial and maritime surveillance for alleged al-Qa'ida-linked activities.

Peace and reconciliation

The 14th peace conference since 1991 opened in Eldoret, Kenya, in October under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional state grouping. AI called for human rights to be at the forefront of the talks and opposed a general amnesty for faction leaders and others who had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity under the previous Said Barre government or in the succeeding civil wars. The conference was supported by the European Union, the UN, the USA and the Arab League. Although boycotted by Somaliland, it brought together all faction leaders and numerous civil society groups. Faction leaders and the TNG signed a cease-fire on 27 October and a further truce in December, although outbreaks of fighting continued in Somalia. They concluded an agreement to form a 450-member federal parliament in 2003 on the basis of quotas of the four main clans with seats reserved also for minorities. Six committees were formed to make recommendations on a unified constitutional framework, disarmament and demobilization, land and property rights, economic reconstruction, regional and international relations, and conflict resolution and reconciliation, including human rights.

Several hundred members of civil society groups attended the Eldoret peace talks, but without any specific role or input. Some belonged to established non-governmental organizations engaged in peace, development and human rights activities, despite the risk of reprisals from armed factions. They promoted public awareness of a range of rights, through seminars, workshops, media work, public events, rallies and demonstrations, and meetings with the authorities. Some denounced human rights abuses and visited prisons, making recommendations for improvements. A prominent human rights defender, Starlin Arush, who had been threatened by faction militias in Somalia several times in past years, was killed on a visit to Nairobi in October as she was about to attend the Eldoret peace talks. She was reportedly murdered by Kenyan armed robbers.

International organizations

In January the UN Independent Expert on Somalia reported to the Commission on Human Rights on his August 2001 visit to Somalia. Among other recommendations, he called for independent investigations into past human rights abuses to assist the process of peace and reconciliation. In April the Commission condemned violations of human rights and humanitarian law and urged the international community to incorporate human rights principles into their humanitarian activities. In August the Independent Expert visited Somaliland and Puntland, but not Mogadishu or the south because of the security situation. He called for local leaders, civil society organizations and the international community to address serious human rights problems throughout Somalia, and recommended the establishment of independent national and regional human rights organizations.

In August, a UN Panel of Experts was formed to investigate violations of the renewed Security Council arms embargo.

Civilian victims of faction fighting

Inter-factional and inter-clan fighting in the south claimed scores of civilian lives, as well as combat casualties. Several factions used children as combatants and scores of people died from landmine injuries. Faction militias and other gunmen raped women and girls of opposing clans and other vulnerable groups, particularly internally displaced people and the severely underprivileged Somali minorities such as the Bantu (also known as Jarir), Midgan, Tumal, Yibir, Bravanese and also the wealthier Benadiri community. Dozens of people, including children, were kidnapped for ransom, including Mohamed Abokor, a UN official released in May after four weeks' captivity.

  • In Puntland in August, Sultan Ahmed Mahmoud Muhammed (also known as "Hurre"), a prominent opponent of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and a British citizen, was killed by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's forces in a village 50km south of Garowe. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's representative claimed that militias were ordered to arrest him and that he was killed in a shoot-out. However, there were allegations that he was extrajudicially executed. A government investigation was said to be under way at the end of the year.
Rule of law

Regular courts functioned only in Somaliland, although many judges were arbitrarily dismissed in mid-2002. Puntland had an embryonic court structure incorporating Sharia (Islamic) law, but these courts did not function regularly. In other parts, the few functioning courts, other than at the customary clan level, included a number of Sharia courts in Mogadishu and other regions. These did not adhere to international standards of fair trial and there was generally impunity for faction militias which committed human rights abuses. Courts imposed several death sentences which were swiftly carried out. An amputation sentence from the Benadir regional court in Mogadishu in June was widely criticized as unfair, and withdrawn under TNG pressure for a retrial.

Prison conditions, particularly in Mogadishu, were harsh, with severe overcrowding and poor sanitation. Many prisoners seemed to be from minorities who lacked support from any armed clan. The custom continued of some parents placing children in prison, in Hargeisa and Mogadishu for example, for disciplinary purposes and without any legal procedure, despite there being no separate juvenile custody facilities.

Political imprisonment
In June, Yusuf Abdi Aziz, president of the East African University in Bosasso, was detained by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's forces, along with scores of other alleged supporters of Jama Ali Jama. They were allegedly beaten but released after some days. In August, two members of Dulmidiid Centre for Human Rights were arrested: they were prisoners of conscience. They were released without charge a few days later following an appeal by the visiting UN Independent Expert.

Freedom of expression

Independent journalists were under threat in many areas. Private radio stations which broadcast criticism of the authorities were shut down in Somaliland and Puntland. In September and October, journalists protested against a draft media law. The law was sent back to parliament by the TNG President for revision.
  • In Somaliland, Abdirahman Ismail Omer was arrested on 27 August in connection with three articles raising questions about the President's visit to Djibouti. He was summarily tried at night and jailed for three months. He was released a few days later when the sentence was changed to a fine.
  • In September, the editor of Somalpress journal was detained in Puntland for a month without charge or trial.
  • Twelve people, mostly Ethiopians, were briefly detained in Somaliland in September for spreading Christianity. They were released without charge.
AI country visits

AI representatives attended the Somali peace talks in Kenya in early November.

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