On 4th August 2018, nine inmates in Hargeisa Prison started a hunger strike. The inmates who have been in jail for cases related to “terrorism” are claiming that their prison terms have ended. The Office of Attorney General claims that the allegation of the striking prisoners is not true.
On 31st May 2007, the then president of Somaliland Dahir Rayale Kahin has extended pardon to 14 prisoners by reducing their prison terms. As a result of the reductions, two of them were released. On 12th November 2008, the president issued a letter stating that the President has revoked the pardon due to “terrorist attacks” that happened in Somaliland on 29th October 2008.
The lawyers of the inmates argue that the withdrawal decision of the President is not legally binding and argue that the president had no legal power to reverse a pardoned he extended. The Attorney General contends that the decision of the president to withdraw his pardon is legitimately binding and therefore prisoners’ jail terms have not expired.
In such contentions, nine inmates went hunger strike to protest.
Two of the striking inmates have been in ill health in years, and the hunger strike has deteriorated their health, family members told Human Rights Centre (HRC).
On 9th August, the Human Rights Centre, Somaliland Lawyers Association and COMPAD human rights organization wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice requesting access to meet the prisoners who went the strike. So far, the access is not given.
Human Rights Centre visited the Hargeisa Prison, Ministry of Justice, the headquarters of the Prison Guards on 6th, 7th and 8th August, but was not allowed to meet the prisoners who are on hunger strike.
Today, family members and the lawyer of the prisoners, Mohamed Ahmed Abokor, and the government official told HRC that the prisoners are still on hunger strike. The lawyer told HRC that most of them are weaker and in ill health.
Human Rights Centre calls on the government of Somaliland:
- To allow independent organizations to meet and see the prisoners who are on a hunger strike;
- To give health care and support from independent medical experts;
- To seriously consider their complaints.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Director of Human Rights Centre, Hargeisa Somaliland