UN declares the arrest and detention of journalist Kilwe Adan Farah in Somalia’s Puntland a human rights violation

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Mogadishu (Onkod Radio) — 15 August 2022. Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and human rights lawyer, Michael Polak of Justice Abroad jointly welcome the opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) declaring the arrest and detention of journalist Kilwe Adan Farah, in Somalia’s Puntland State as an arbitrary detention and was in contrary to his right to freedom of movement under article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 12 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

After covering street protests in Garowe, the capital of Puntland State, Mr. Kilwe was detained by Puntland police officers at gunpoint on 27 December 2020. He was held incommunicado for 16 days before he was arraigned in a military court on 3 March 2021. He was first charged with murder despite the fact that the authorities were unable to point to any victim and then following this, inside a small room at the Garowe central prison, on 17 March 2021, Puntland military court judges sentenced him to three years in prison for “media related offences”. Neither Mr. Farah’s lawyer nor his family were allowed to attend the hearing of this sham trial conducted by this kangaroo court. As a civilian there was not way that Mr Kilwe should have been tried by a military court.

Journalist Kilwe, who comes from the marginalized Sanaag region, was released after 84 days in prison, on 22 March 2021, following a special pardon decree by the President of Puntland, Said Abdullahi Deni and after submissions had been made to the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by Mr Polak on behalf of the SJS.

SJS and the human rights barrister, Michael Polak welcome this historic decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regarding the human rights violations committed by Puntland State authorities perpetrated against journalist Kilwe Adan Farah.

Noting that Kilwe’s detention was as a result of his journalistic work, the UN Working Group found that the Mr. Kilwe’s detention constituted a de facto deprivation of liberty in an unofficial place of detention for over two weeks and recorded its particular concern over these events. The Working Group also found that the rights of Mr. Kilwe a number of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Policial Rights including his right to liberty, his right to be free from arbitrary detention, his right to an effective remedy, his right to a fair and public hearing.

The UN Working Group transmitted the allegations regarding journalist Kilwe’s detention and requested that the Government of Somalia provide, by 1 February 2022, detailed information about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of the journalist Kilwe Adan Farah and to clarify the legal provisions justifying his detention, as well as its compatibility with the obligations of Somalia under international human rights law and in particular with regard to the treaties ratified by the State.

On 25 January 2021 the Government requested an extension which was granted on the same day with a new deadline of 3 March 2022 given. Up to the day of the publication of its opinion, 31 May 2022, the Working Group has received no reply from the Government.

The Working Group also required the Government of Somalia to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Kilwe without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Working Group suggests that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr. Kilwe an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

“SJS through its international lawyer, submitted this case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We welcome this historic decision which clearly states the human rights abuses perpetrated against our colleague journalist Kilwe Adan Farah who was targeted because of his journalistic reporting. We now call Somali Federal Government and its regional member state of Puntland to take all necessary steps to provide a remedy to journalist Kilwe Adan Farah including by providing him with an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said “We also urge the Somali Government and Puntland State to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of our colleague Kilwe Adan Farah.”

Lawyer Michael Polak stated that in the past, authorities such those in Puntland might have felt that they could disappear and persecute anyone who had the temerity to report news that they did not like. Now, with international bodies willing to investigate the treatments of journalists and others who are subject to laughable ‘court’ proceedings, that is no longer the case.

“Journalists remain one of the most important groups in relation to their role in informing the public about thing that are going wrong in society so that changes can take place. Instead of attacking individual journalists the authorities should address the problems identified to make things better for people who live in areas they manage,” added Mr. Michael Polak.

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