Human Rights Centre annual report covers a wide range of human rights issues and is based on the organization’s monitoring and documentation of human rights in Somaliland in 2022. The report is a result of the daily documentation, interviews, and review of official documents. Data results indicated by Article 19’s Global Expression Report show Somalia-based Freedom of Expression as Highly Restricted on the GxR expression category. While there is a lack of information indicated by Somaliland, the mapped graph shows the area of Somaliland as highly restricted as well.
According to a research initiative, Varieties of Democracy, data shows that attacks on freedom of expression are often the first steps of democratic regression and in the end followed by the erosion of democratic institutions. The trajectory that Somaliland is experiencing currently is a downward trend, starting with restrictions on journalists covering topics relevant to civil society, intimidation and harassment of journalists, internet shutdowns the country experiences during times of tension, the suppressions of protests regionally, and the lack of accountability in answers for the mass arbitrary arrests in the political stalemate due to the postponement of elections and the deaths of citizens during the armed protests, and shut down of media houses in Somaliland without due process of law, and creating a politically polarizing environment and creating fragile institutions and then finally the undermining of elections, failing to hold a presidential election this November 2022.
Since these events occurred, we’ve seen a democratic decline in our institutions, most notably the long-term extensions of the Guurti and the President. Authorities in Somaliland are setting negative benchmarks, clashing with the constitution and international obligations, as well as an absence of a strong and operational mechanism to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Somaliland authorities have conducted raids on offices of independent media houses such as BBC Somali and BBC Media Action, as well as illegal sanctioning of obscene amounts of fines on CBA TV and MMTV, of which there is no transparency or money trail.
This report highlights the increasing crackdown on media, dissent voices, and opposition parties. This year, the Human Rights Centre has recorded 278 people arrested for cases related to
freedom of expression. This includes 48 journalists and 21 opposition party members. 209 people were arrested for protesting in June and August 2022 due to the postponement of the presidential and political parties’ association elections that were meant to be taken place in November 2022, peacefully protesting while the Somaliland police used excessive force and firearms in Burco and Hargeisa, along with demonstrations that have occurred in LasAnod on December 27, 2022, due to the extrajudicial killing of Abdifatah Abdullahi. These people were arrested without due process and targeted for expressing opinions and exercising their right to demonstrate the political future of the country.
The report also demonstrates:
- Police impunity, arrests without court warrants, beatings, and politicization of security forces to crack down on opposition figures, journalists, and citizens. Police have used excessive force on the public and unnecessary excessive beatings.
- Prevalence of gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination with no legal protections. The Sexual Offences Act enacted has been rejected, and stagnated in legislative proceedings and there has been no further progress as to drafting, implementation, or legislation of further acts of protection.
Journalists remain the primary target of the government. As recently as April 2022, a crackdown on journalists covering the prison incident at the Hargeisa Central prison paved the way for indiscriminate police behavior and impunity. Eyewitnesses detailed police brutality, destruction of property and equipment, and a lack of procedural awareness by the courts and police during the arrests. Journalists arrested were charged with a levy of charges, stipulated by the Somali Penal Code, of which were:
- Anti-national propaganda
- Publication of false news,
- Anti-national propaganda
- Non-observance of orders of authorities.
However, as Somaliland has declared independence from Somalia, the articles applicable in the Somali Penal Code contradict the constitution of Somaliland. The articles are also outdated and do not take into consideration the advancement of technology or amended laws that guarantee freedom of expression established by the framers of Somaliland. Actions related to freedom of expression violations committed in Somaliland often result in arbitrary detention and arrest.