On Saturday, 12 January 2019, the government of Somaliland arrested poet Abdirahman Abees, a British-Somalilander dual national.
The arrest of the poet is related to a poetry reading performed by the poet on 11th January 2019 in Hargeisa, according to government authorities who spoke to Human Rights Centre (HRC), and family members.
At a poetry reading event convened at Hargeisa, the poet recited poems talking about “police brutality, “arbitrary detentions” and “poor leadership”.
He is now held in the detention facility of the Counterterrorism Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department in Hargeisa.
Abees was arrested from a restaurant in Hargeisa, and no court warrant was shown to him, eyewitnesses told Human Rights Centre (HRC). Reliable sources confirmed to HRC that the police did not have a warrant of arrest issued by a court.
Article 25(2) of the Constitution of Somaliland states that no person can be arrested or detained, except when caught in the act of committing a crime or, on the issue of a reasoned arrest warrant by a competent judge.
According to article 32(1) of Somaliland Constitution, every person has the freedom “to express his opinions orally, visually, artistically or in writing or in any other way.”
“The arrest of the poet is a clear violation of the Constitution of Somaliland. It is a suppression of freedom of expression,” says Guleid Ahmed Jama, the acting Executive Director of Human Rights Centre.
Neither his family nor his legal representatives are allowed to meet him, Saad Yasin Mohamoud and his father told the Human Rights Centre. An attempt made by the Human Rights Centre to meet him was turned down by the authorities.
Article 27(1) of the Constitution says “any person who is deprived of his liberty has a right to meet as soon as possible his legal representative, relatives or any other persons he asks for.”
In another freedom of expression related case, the regional court in Hargeisa summoned the editors of Foore newspaper, Mohamed Mohamoud Yousuf and Abdirashid Abdiwahaab Ibrahim, who are accused of “publication of false news” and “defamation,” to appear before the court on Monday, the court summon says. The summon does not provide details of the allegations.
Foore is a privately-owned newspaper published in Hargeisa.
Human Rights Centre is very concerned about the arrest of the poet and the criminal charges against Foore and calls on the government to release poet Abdirahman Abees and drop the criminal charges against Foore journalists.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Acting Executive Director of Human Rights Centre