STRATEGIC LITIGATION

Somali Journalist Released From Detention

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Arbitrarily Detained Somali Journalist “Abuuja” Abdiwahab Nuur Released Following RFK Human Rights Intervention

On February 26, 2020, Somali radio journalist and human rights defender Mohamed “Abuuja” Abdiwahab Nuur published an editorial criticizing Somali security forces for engaging in threats and intimidation against the country’s citizens. Since 2016, Abuuja’s work has highlighted abuses of power committed by security forces, restrictions on freedom of expression, and the targeting of marginalized communities in the Shibis District that led to his continued harassment by the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).

Three days later, Abuuja was arbitrarily detained for three days by NISA before being released on the condition that he would not speak about his detention. He did not follow that directive, speaking quite openly about it. On March 7, Abuuja was again arrested by the same officer, who said he just wanted to question the Radio Hiigsi journalist once more.

Instead, Abuuja was arbitrarily detained for five months and endured torture intended to extract a false confession of being a member of terrorist group Al-Shabaab—all while being denied access to legal counsel and his family. It was not until a military court session on August 3, 2020, that any charges were officially brought against Abuuja.

It is believed that in addition to his work, Abuuja has also been targeted by government authorities for belonging to an ethnic minority.

Why is this a key case?

Abuuja’s case is symptomatic of the intimidation and worse faced by journalists in Somalia and around the world. Since 2012, 52 journalists have been killed in Somalia, with impunity for the perpetrators. Many others have been arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado. Government forces have also occupied and shut down independent TV and radio stations, as government press conferences have all but evaporated and state-controlled media channels gain more and more of a singular hold on the information disseminated to Somali citizens.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed publicly committed to reform the outdated 1962 penal code often used against journalists, promising to support the right to freedom of expression and decriminalize media and journalism. Abuuja’s detention and harassment run directly contrary to that commitment.

The case is also illustrative of the widespread harassment and discrimination that government officials are perpetuating against ethnic minorities, such as the Somali Bantus, or jareerwayne, who have historically faced systemic oppression in Somalia and are of the minority clan groups lacking political representation in the country.

How Has RFK Human Rights Supported Abuuja’s Case?

On July 27, 2020, alongside partners Somali Journalists Syndicate and the Somali Media Association, the organization filed a joint petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to secure Abuuja’s immediate release, as his arrest and continued detention violated multiple provisions of both the Somali constitution and international human rights treaties to which Somalia is a party.

What is the Status of the Case?

Just over one week later, on August 3, a judge of the Military Court’s First Degree dropped all charges against Abuuja. He was immediately released from Mogadishu Central Prison and reunited with his family. In September 2021, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion finding Abuuja’s detention arbitrary and requesting that the government of Somalia conduct a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding Abuuja’s deprivation of liberty. The opinion calls for the government of Somalia to take all appropriate measures against those responsible for the arbitrary violation of his rights.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Mohamed Abdiwahaab Nuur v. Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia


Month/Year of filing

2020


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated

  • The detention of Abuuja was alleged to constitute an arbitrary deprivation of his liberty under Category I, Category II, Category III, and Category V as set forth by the Working Group.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category I for the violation of Article 9(1) and 9(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); principles 2 and 36(2) of the Body of Principles; and Article 35(5) of the Somali Constitution.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category II for the violation of Article 19(2) of the ICCPR; Article 19 of the UDHR; and Article 18 of the Somali Constitution.

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category III for the violation of Article 7, 9(1), 9(2), 9(3), 9(4), 10(1), 14(3)(a), and 35(3)(d) of the ICCPR; Principles 2, 4, 6, 10, 11, 11(1), 13, 32, 37, 38, and 39 of the Body of Principles; Article 15(2), 35, and 35(6) of the Somali Constitution; Article 5 of the UDHR; and Articles 1-2 and 4-7 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

  • The detention was alleged to be arbitrary under Category V for the violation of Article 7 and 26 of the ICCPR; and Article 11 of the Somali Constitution.


Procedural stage

Abuuja was released following a court hearing on Monday, August 3, 2020.


Case Partners

Somali Journalists Syndicate

We filed a joint petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to secure Mohamed “Abuuja” Abdiwahab Nuur’s release after he was arbitrarily detained for months, enduring torture and being denied access to legal counsel and his family, for publishing an editorial criticizing Somali security forces.

sjsyndicate.org

Somali Media Association

We filed a joint petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to secure Mohamed “Abuuja” Abdiwahab Nuur’s release after he was arbitrarily detained for months, enduring torture and being denied access to legal counsel and his family, for publishing an editorial criticizing Somali security forces.

soma.org.so

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