Tribute to the tireless efforts of Somali human rights defenders

17 Apr 2013

Mogadishu, Somalia -  In Sunday’s dual attacks on the Banadir Regional Court and in Wadajir District in Mogadishu, where dozens of people died, Somalia tragically lost a number of its legal professionals, including a judge, prosecutors, lawyers and legal support staff, who until their last minutes were working tirelessly to protect the fundamental human rights of the Somalis they represented. This is a devastating blow for Somalia’s justice sector. But these individuals leave behind an important legacy – it is due to their commitment and hard work that there exists a strong foundation of rule of law in Somalia on which the younger generation of legal professionals can build.

Since 2006 at least 23 legal professionals including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, and 19 court support staff have been killed in Somalia.

UNDP was shocked to learn that two of its close partners, human rights defenders Mohamed Mohamud Afrah and Abdikarim Hassan Gorod, were among those who died at the Banadir Regional Court. Afrah and Gorod worked closely with UNDP for over 5 years through the Somali Women Development Centre and spent the past two decades providing legal assistance to the poor, women, children and IDPs. At a memorial service held for the two men in Mogadishu on 16 April, UNDP Somalia Resident Representative Philippe Lazzarini praised their commitment to the defense of human rights, and acknowledged the depth of their contribution to improving Somalia’s justice sector.

Both were performing courageous and exemplary work defending the vulnerable and disadvantaged in Mogadishu. As the founding fathers of the Somali Bar Association, they opened up the space for the legal profession to thrive in Mogadishu and overcame many challenges to raise standards. Their contribution also ensured that legal aid is now flourishing in Mogadishu providing valuable help and assistance to the most vulnerable.

“We recognize their distinguished service to thousands of Somalis over the years who otherwise would not have realized their legal rights. They will be remembered for their role in defending journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim and an alleged rape survivor between January and March this year, which was acknowledged internationally. Their contribution ensured that the rule of law was ultimately upheld in this case,” said Lazzarini.

“To be a human rights defender in Somalia is to live in constant threat of losing one’s life. We should strive to ensure that these individuals are afforded the protection that they need in order to continue to serve others,” added Lazzarini.

For more information contact: Aimee Brown, UNDP Somalia Communications Specialist, aimee.brown@undp.org