Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency violates the right to hold public meetings

The Human Rights Journalists (HRJ) disapproves of the National Intelligence and Security Agency of Federal Government of Somalia for frequently banning political meetings and debates in violation of international standards.

The right to freedom of assembly has increasingly been under attack in many parts of Somalia as Security Agencies deliberately proscribed them using all possible means including cautioning managers of hotels or setting up barriers to impede access to the meeting place. There were unpleasant incidents when security agencies entered hotels and forcibly disbanded participants.

The latest occurrence took place on Thursday March 15 when NISA vetoed a meeting in which the chairman of Wadajir political party Abdirahman Abdishakur wanted to present a lecture on the political status quo of Somalia. The manager of Sahafi Hotel where the event was scheduled to take place told organizers that he had received a directive from the National Intelligence and Security Agency ordering him to cancel the meeting.

These are clear human rights violations committed by NISA as the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in the provisional constitution of Somalia, as well as in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), treaties to which Somalia is a party.

Article 20 of the Somalia provisional constitution states that “Every person has the right to organize and participate in meetings, and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization.

Article 20 of the UDHR says “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Article 21 of ICCPR says, The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

“The freedom to take part in a peaceful assembly is of such importance that a person cannot be subject to a sanction  for organizing meetings or participating in a demonstration, so long as this person does not commit an act of violence or similar crime.” Said the chairman of Human Rights Journalists (HRJ) Ismail Sheikh Khalifa.

Although Somalia is recovering from two decades of chaos and lawlessness, the situation is still fragile and if the government institutions disrespect rule of law the country may slip back to anarchy. FGS and member states should be role model by adhering Somali Provisional Constitution, as well as regional and international treaties.”

The Human Rights Journalists (HRJ) calls on the security agencies of the Federal Government of Somalia and federal member states to stop breaching the law and to let the citizens enjoy their rights and freedom as protected by the provisional constitution of Somalia.