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2013 | UN Team of Experts - Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict Somalia Mission Report

The aims of this mission by the UN's Team of Experts included assisting the Somali Government to define a plan for implementing its commitments under the 7 May 2013 Joint Communiqué between the Federal Government of Somalia and the United Nations, on addressing sexual violence. Recommendations include strengthening the relevant legal framework by enacting a Sexual Violence Act, reviewing the penal code, and harmonizing the statutory justice system and Somali customary justice system (xeer), to ensure that they deter and punish crimes of sexual violence.

The report identifies serious gaps in the justice infrastructure and in legislative and administrative provisions that severely limit women’s’ access to justice for crimes of sexual violence. At a very basic level, effective protections are needed for victims and witnesses and for human rights activists, journalists, prosecutors and judges that stand for their right to justice. The report also notes the total absence of women among Somalia’s prosecutors and judges or other senior positions in the formal justice system. At the time of writing, only one government referral hospital (Medina Hospital in Mogadishu) and one particular doctor in this hospital were authorized to deliver medical certificates for incidents of sexual violence that are admissible as evidence in court. This, together with very limited legal aid and a simple shortage of lawyers outside of Mogadishu greatly reduce access for victims countrywide.

The report also cites the lack of clear command orders prohibiting sexual violence by security forces as an urgent problem. The effective issuing of such orders through all chains of command and commitment to a zero-tolerance policy are indispensible. The TOE consider that a strong and effective police force, including increased recruitment of women, trained to navigate the difficult transition from customary justice to formal justice in respect of crimes of sexual violence, will be fundamental to the success of any strategy.

The report does not address the matter of reparations, focusing on the prior need to provide access to justice for victims of sexually violent crimes and to introduce changes of culture in the justice systems and in the security forces to eliminate impunity.