Somaliland: Freedom of Expression in Peril

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21 May 2019

Human Rights Centre (HRC) expresses serious concern over a worsening situation of freedom of expression in Somaliland. Politicians, journalist and social media users are in prison for statements they made or posted on Facebook.

Mohamed Sidiq Dhame, the youth wing leader of the opposition Waddani party, was arrested on 1st May 2019 from his home without a court warrant, according to family members and authorities who spoke to HRC. Mohamed was arrested for a Facebook post criticizing a State of Emergency imposed by the president of Somaliland on three districts of Sanaag region. According to the Deputy Police Commissioner who spoke to the media on 2nd May 2019, the Facebook post of Dhame was “inciting” and “insult to the leadership of the nation.” The Parliament in joint session rejected the State of Emergency.

Dhame was remanded on 4th May 2019 by Hargeisa Regional Court on seven days in prison pending a police investigation. Upon expiration of the seven days remand period, Dhame has not been brought to court again. According to article 47 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused person who is in pre-trial detention should be brought to court every seven days.

On 9th May 2019, police raided the dwelling-house of Mohamed Ahmed Dhakool, a member of the House of Representatives of the Parliament elected from Sool region. The arrest of the member of parliament (MP) was conducted without a court warrant. His arrest is related to a statement he made in which he “opposed” the celebration of the 18th May, which is the commemoration of the day Somaliland declared the restoration of independence in 1991. The Police said the MP made “anti-national statement and opposed the existence of Somaliland.”

He was brought to court on 10th May. The court refused to remand him and stated that his immunity bars prosecution. The Standing Committee of the House of Representatives refused to remove his immunity and called on the government immediate release.

Article 49(1) of the Constitution states “no member of the House may be detained, and no action may be taken against him for any matter which he learnt or raised at the House or on which he expressed his opinion.”

Article 79 of the Constitution states that members of the parliament “cannot be brought before a court, nor imprisoned until they are stripped of their privileges for the responsibilities that they hold for the nation.”  “A majority vote of two-thirds of the total membership of the House” can remove the immunity of the member of the Parliament. According to article 49 of the Constitution “If the House is not in session, consent for the action taken against the member must be sought from the (Permanent) Standing Committee of the House of Representatives.” In this case, the Standing Committee rejected the request to remove immunity.

Despite the decisions of the court and the Parliament, the government still holds the member of the Parliament in police custody.

On 13th May 2019, the police of Las Anod arrested Abdirahman Keyse Mohamed, a journalist with Bulsh TV. During the arrest, Abdirahman sustained injury caused by the debris of gunshots fired on the grounds by a police officer who was conducting the arrest. Abdirahman was arrested for interviews with members of the public about the arrest of Mohamed Ahmed Dhakool, the member of parliament arrested in Hargeisa.

Other people arrested for expressing an opinion include Jamaal Abdi Muhumed arrested on 18th April for Facebook post criticising the police, Abdimalik Muse Oldon who has been arrested on 17thApril for Facebook posts, and Abdirahman Aar who has been arrested on 14th May 2019 in Hargeisa for wearing outfits of Somalia flag. All are still in detention.

On 8th May 2019, four men were arrested in Las Anod for Facebook posts allegedly criticising the executive secretary of Las Anod local municipality. They were released on 12th May 2019 without charges.

According to article 32 of the Constitution “every citizen shall have the freedom, in accordance with the law, to express his opinions orally, visually, artistically or in writing or in any other way.”

Human Rights Centre calls on the government of Somaliland:

  1. To release all those arrested for statements they made or posted on social media platforms;
  2. To respect freedom of expression and tolerate different opinions.

Yasmin Omar Haji Mohamoud

Chairperson of Human Rights Centre Somaliland

Mobile: +252 (0)634472011

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