Mogadishu, Somalia and Washington, DC-- On July 27, 2020, the Somali Journalists Syndicate, the Somali Media Association, lawyer Daahir Ali and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights jointly submitted a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of detained journalist, Mohamed Abdiwahab Nuur. Mr. Nuur, a Somali human rights defender, journalist and editor for Radio Hiigsi, has been arbitrarily detained and by Somali authorities since March 7, 2020 in retaliation for an editorial he published on February 26 criticizing the Somali security forces for engaging in threats and intimidation against Somali citizens.
As a journalist, Mr. Nuur has published pieces critical of the government since 2016. Throughout his work, he has bravely reported on abuses of power committed by the security forces, restrictions on freedom of expression, and the targeting of marginalized communities in the capital city of Mogadishu. On account of his work, Mr. Nuur has been a target of the Somali National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA) since 2019.
Most recently, Mr. Nuur became a target of NISA due to his critical February 26 editorial criticizing Somali security forces. He was first arrested on February 29, three days after publishing his article. While in detention, officers tortured him and threatened to kill him if he continued to report on abuses committed by security forces. He was eventually released on March 2 on the condition that he would not speak about his detention; however, Mr. Nuur was very vocal about his unlawful detention and on March 7, 2020 NISA Commander Liban re- arrested him. He has been detained, held without charge and repeatedly denied access to his legal counsel and family ever since. On June 7, Mr. Nuur appeared before a military court, but neither his lawyers nor his family were made aware of this court appearance. The Military Court has called on NISA, on three separate occasions, to bring official charges against Mr. Nuur, but NISA has not responded to these requests. Mr. Nuur has not had contact with his family or his lawyer since June 8.
Mr. Nuur’s arrest and continued detention violate multiple provisions of both the Somali Constitution and international human rights treaties to which Somalia is a party. As detailed in the petition, Mr. Nuur’s detention is arbitrary because he was arrested and detained without proper legal justification; because his detention resulted from his peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression; because the government denied him due process rights required under international law; and because he was targeted by the government in part because of his ethnicity and political opinion. The petition calls for Mr. Nuur’s immediate release, compensation for his arbitrary arrest and mistreatment, and guarantees that Mr. Nuur may continue to freely conduct his work as a journalist after his release without threats to his life or liberty.