Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but neither federal nor regional authorities respected this right. The Somali penal code criminalizes the spreading of “false news,” which it does not define, with penalties including imprisonment of up to six months. The government, government-aligned militias, authorities in Somaliland and Puntland, South West State, Galmudug, Jubaland, ASWJ, al-Shabaab, and unknown assailants killed, abused, and harassed journalists with impunity (see sections 1.a. and 1.g.).
The Somaliland constitution prohibits publication or circulation of exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing public order, and officials used the provision to charge and arrest journalists.
The Puntland constitution limits freedom of opinion and expression through broadly worded limitations–including conformity with moral dignity, national stability, and personal rights of others–and allows for exceptions from the right to freedom of expression in times of war or other public emergency.
Freedom of Expression: Individuals in government-controlled areas risked reprisal for criticizing government officials, particularly for alleged official corruption or suggestions that officials were unable to manage security matters. Such interference remained common outside the capital, particularly in Puntland and Somaliland.
Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, although self-censorship was common due to a history of arbitrary arrest of journalists and search and closure of media outlets that criticized the government. While there were no reports of such interference in Mogadishu since President Farmaajo’s election, it remained common outside the capital, particularly in Puntland and Somaliland.
Somaliland authorities continued to fine and arbitrarily arrest journalists for defamation and other alleged crimes, including meeting with colleagues. Prison terms ranged from a few days to several months, and fines could be as high as 573,000 shillings ($1,000). Journalists were intimidated and imprisoned for conducting investigations into corruption or topics deemed sensitive, such as investment agreements regarding the Berbera Port or the conflict between Somaliland and Puntland over the disputed Sool and Sanaag regions.
Violence and Harassment: Between January and August, the United Nations documented 20 cases of arbitrary arrests and or prolonged detentions of journalists and other media workers, of which 12 occurred in Somaliland. During that same period, five media outlets were closed. On July 26, a Somali soldier in Mogadishu killed a television cameraman; the death allegedly resulted from a personal property dispute. On September 18, another journalist was stabbed to death in Galkayo. Investigations in neither case found evidence that the killings were carried out because of the journalists’ work.
In January, two journalists were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Somaliland on charges that included conducting propaganda against the state.
On January 13, NISA officers reportedly beat and harassed two journalists at an airport in Galkaayo during a visit by President Farmaajo. No investigation was reported despite requests by the Puntland Media Association.
On February 17, Somaliland police arrested the bureau chief of London-based Universal TV in response to a news report broadcast by the station earlier in February.
In April a journalist was arrested in Middle Shabelle after reporting on a clash between security forces. He was later released through negotiations between journalists and authorities.
In July a civil society activist was arrested in Garowe by Puntland police after making a Facebook post critical of the Puntland Government.
According to the Somaliland Journalists Association, local authorities continued to harass and arbitrarily detain journalists systematically.
Journalists based in the Lower Juba region continued to report that local security authorities harassed them.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists engaged in rigorous self-censorship to avoid reprisals.
In May Somaliland authorities banned two private television stations, accusing them of broadcasting propaganda and false news regarding the dispute between Somaliland and Puntland in Tukaraq, Sool region. Somaliland continued to punish persons who espoused national unification.
On June 13, in the midst of conflict between Somaliland and Puntland, the Puntland Ministry of Information instructed Puntland internet provider DSAT to remove the Somaliland television channel from the list of channels available in Puntland.
On June 19, the Hargeisa Regional Court ordered the suspension of Waaberi, the local newspaper, alleging the paper was not run by its registered owners.
Al-Shabaab banned journalists from reporting news that undermined Islamic law as interpreted by al-Shabaab and forbade persons in areas under its control from listening to international media outlets.
Libel/Slander Laws: Puntland and Somaliland authorities prosecuted journalists for libel.
On April 16, blogger Mohamed Kayse Mohamud was sentenced to 18 months in prison for comments he made in February calling Somaliland President Bihi a local, not national, president. Kayse’s lawyer said that police denied him access to Kayse during pretrial detention, which began February 7, and did not meet him until April 1, the first day of the trial.
National Security: Federal and regional authorities cited national security concerns to suppress criticism and prevent press coverage of opposition political figures.
Authorities restricted access to the internet, but there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
Al-Shabaab prohibited companies from providing access to the internet and forced telecommunication companies to shut data services in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, less than 2 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
Academics practiced self-censorship.
Puntland required individuals to obtain government permits to conduct academic research.
Except in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, there were no official restrictions on attending cultural events, playing music, or going to the cinema. The security situation, however, effectively restricted access to and organization of cultural events in the southern and central regions.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The federal provisional constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government limited this right. A general lack of security effectively limited this right as well. The federal Ministry of Internal Security continued to require its approval for all public gatherings, citing security concerns, such as the risk of attack by al-Shabaab suicide bombers.
In May Somaliland authorities in the Sool region arrested 57 demonstrators for staging a protest in support of Somali unity, including some in support of Puntland. All the demonstrators were later released.
Al-Shabaab did not allow any gatherings without its prior consent.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The provisional federal constitution provides for freedom of association, but government officials harassed NGO workers. There were also reports that regional authorities restricted freedom of association. Al-Shabaab did not allow most international NGOs to operate.
Persons in the southern and central regions outside of al-Shabaab-controlled areas could freely join civil society organizations focusing on a wide range of problems. Citizens generally respected civil society organizations for their ability to deliver social services in the absence of functioning government ministries.
Regional administrations took steps to control or gain benefit from humanitarian organizations, including by imposing duplicative registration requirements at different levels of government; attempting to control humanitarian organization contracting, procurement, and staffing; and using opaque and vague taxation.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The provisional federal constitution states that all persons lawfully residing in the country have the right to freedom of movement, to choose their residence, and to leave the country. Freedom of movement, however, was restricted in some areas.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The country hosts a relatively small number of refugees, primarily from Yemen, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Economic migrants also use the country as a transit point in route to the Gulf, which exposes them to exploitation and abuse primarily by human traffickers.
The government and Somaliland authorities cooperated with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration to assist IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
During the year dialogue continued between humanitarian agencies, the FGS, and regional authorities to remove checkpoints and facilitate movement of humanitarian assistance, food aid, and essential commodities.
In-country Movement: Checkpoints operated by government forces, allied groups, armed militias, clan factions, and al-Shabaab inhibited movement and exposed citizens to looting, extortion, harassment, and violence. Roadblocks manned by armed actors and attacks on humanitarian personnel severely restricted movement and the delivery of aid in southern and central sectors of the country.
Al-Shabaab and other nonstate armed actors continued to hinder commercial activities in the areas they controlled in the Bakool, Bay, Gedo, and Hiraan regions and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Attacks against humanitarian workers and assets impeded the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.
Somaliland prohibited federal officials, including those of Somaliland origin who purported to represent Hargeisa’s interests in Mogadishu, from entering Somaliland. It also prevented its citizens from traveling to Mogadishu to participate in FGS processes or in cultural activities.
Foreign Travel: Few citizens had the means to obtain passports. In view of widespread passport fraud, many foreign governments did not recognize Somali passports as valid travel documents. Beginning August 1, Norway began recognizing Somali passports of all types.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
Continuing conflict during the year led to an increase in internal displacement. The country was home to more than 2.6 million IDPs. The food security situation continued to improve due to a sustained humanitarian response and an above-average rainy season, but needs remained critical. As of August, 4.6 million persons were in need of assistance, more than before the onset of the 2016 drought crisis.
UNHCR advocated for the protection of IDPs and provided some financial assistance given the group is a population of concern, and Somalis who have returned often wind up in IDP camps.
While government and regional authorities were more involved in the recent famine prevention and drought response than in prior years, their capacity to respond remained extremely limited. In addition, forceful evictions of IDPs continued. Since January more than 204,000 individuals have been evicted. Private persons with claims to land and government authorities, for example, regularly pursued the forceful eviction of IDPs in Mogadishu. Increased reports of sexual and gender-based violence accompanied increased displacement, including reports of incidents committed by various armed groups and security personnel.
Women and children living in IDP settlements were particularly vulnerable to rape by armed men, including government soldiers and militia members. Gatekeepers in control of some IDP camps reportedly forced girls and women to provide sex in exchange for food and services within the settlements.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Refoulement: The provisional federal constitution states that every person who seeks refuge in the country has the right not to be returned or taken to any country in which that person has a well-founded fear of persecution. There was no official system for providing such protection to refugees.
Access to Asylum: The provisional constitution recognizes the right to asylum in accordance with international treaties; however, the FGS had yet to implement a legal framework and system to provide protection to refugees on a consistent basis. Authorities, however, granted prima facie status to most refugees, most of whom were Yemeni.
Employment: Employment opportunities were limited for refugees, Somali returnees, and other vulnerable populations. Refugee returnees from Kenya reported limited employment opportunities in the southern and central sections of the country, consistent with high rates of unemployment throughout the country.
Access to Basic Services: The FGS continued to work with the international community to improve access to basic services, employment, and durable solutions for displaced populations, although this remained a challenge primarily due to security, lack of political will, and financial constraints.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
Government officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices. The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. In 2015 the SEMG noted the “apparent impunity enjoyed by those who have engaged in misappropriation of public finances perpetuates a culture of corruption in Somali politics.” President Farmaajo was elected on an anticorruption agenda and initially took few steps to address corruption. During the year Prime Minister Kharye acted more aggressively to address corruption throughout the government.
Corruption: Following years of pressure from the international community, Prime Minister Khayre directed a series of high-profile leadership changes and arrests at all levels of the government. He publicly condemned corruption and endorsed legislation aimed at creating more transparency in government budgeting and contracting. Corruption, however, remained an issue. The 2017 Communications Act created an independent communications commission intended to allow smaller companies a voice in an industry. In actuality, the majority of the seats went to Hormuud Telecom, essentially a monopoly with close ties to government, and smaller players were left out.
The Financial Governance Committee–an advisory body with no legal authority but responsible for reviewing all government contracts for more than 2.8 billion Somalia shillings ($5 million)–consisted of FGS members from the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, Office of the President, and Office of the Prime Minister, as well as the chair of the parliamentary finance committee and state attorney general. Four delegates were funded by international financial institutions. Although compliance among government ministries, departments, and agencies continued to improve, some ministries bypassed the governance committee when negotiating important public contracts.
The SEMG continued to report on the export of charcoal in violation of a UN Security Council ban. Charcoal production and export continued in areas controlled by al-Shabaab, the Jubaland administration, and Kenyan AMISOM forces; most of the illegal export was from Kismayo, according to the SEMG.
Somaliland had a national auditor and a presidentially appointed governance and anticorruption commission, but it did not prosecute any Somaliland officials for corruption.
Al-Shabaab extorted high and unpredictable “zakat” (a Muslim obligation to donate to charity) and “sadaqa” (a voluntary charity contribution paid by Muslims) taxes in the regions it controlled. Al-Shabaab also diverted and stole humanitarian food aid.
Financial Disclosure: The law does not require income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials. In March 2017 Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre asked cabinet officials to declare their assets, but the government provided no details on the submission requirements or verification mechanisms, and no officials have voluntarily declared their assets.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, providing penalties of five to 15 years in prison for violations. Military court sentences for rape included death. The government did not effectively enforce the law. There are no federal laws against spousal violence, including rape, although in 2016 the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy that gives the government the right to sue anyone convicted of committing gender-based violence, such as the killing or rape of a woman. On August 28, the Somaliland president signed into law the Sexual Offenses Bill, which provides punishment up to 20 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators and compensation for victims. Puntland enacted a state law against sexual offenses in 2016 that provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for offenses such as rape using a weapon. In 2017 Puntland opened its first forensic laboratory, and the attorney general hired 10 female lawyers to serve as experts in rape and sexual violence cases.
Somali NGOs documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of female IDPs and members of minority clans.
Government forces, militia members, and men wearing uniforms raped women and girls. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such rapes, impunity was the norm.
IDPs and members of marginalized clans and groups suffered disproportionately from gender-based violence. Police were reluctant to investigate and sometimes asked survivors to do the investigatory work for their own cases. Some survivors of rape were forced to marry perpetrators.
Authorities rarely used formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffered from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.”
In April following a clan conflict, an opposing clan member raped and attacked a 13-year-old girl, causing grievous bodily injuries. The Galmudug government had not prosecuted the alleged perpetrator.
Local civil society organizations in Somaliland reported that gang rape continued to be a problem in urban areas, primarily perpetrated by youth gangs and male students. It often occurred in poorer neighborhoods and among immigrants, returned refugees, and displaced rural populations living in urban areas.
Domestic and sexual violence against women remained serious problems despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women. While both sharia and customary law address the resolution of family disputes, women were not included in the decision-making process.
Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages. Al-Shabaab sentenced persons to death for rape.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution describes female circumcision as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country.
After a 10-year-old girl died following the FGM/C process in July, Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir promised to carry out an investigation and to bring responsible parties to court. Two sisters, ages 10 and 11, bled to death in Arawda North village in Galdogob district, Puntland in September after undergoing FGM/C. No charges had been filed in either case.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Adultery in al-Shabaab-controlled areas was punishable by death. In May a woman was stoned to death in the town of Sablale, Lower Shabelle Region after al-Shabaab members accused her of polygamy.
Sexual Harassment: The provisional federal constitution states that workers, particularly women, shall have a special right of protection from sexual abuse and discrimination. Nevertheless, sexual harassment was believed to be widespread.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Women did not have the same rights as men and experienced systematic subordination to men, despite provisions in the federal constitution prohibiting such discrimination. Women experienced discrimination in credit, education, politics, and housing. In 2016, five months after the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy to increase women’s political participation, economic empowerment, and the education of girls, the Somali Religious Council publicly warned the government against advocating for women in politics. The council called the 30 percent quota for women’s seats in parliament “dangerous” and against Islamic religious tenets and predicted the policy would lead to disintegration of the family. When the minister for human rights and women tabled the sexual offenses bill, religious clerics called for her to be criminally charged.
Only men administered sharia, which often was applied in the interests of men. According to sharia and the local tradition of blood compensation, anyone found guilty of the death of a woman paid to the victim’s family only half the amount required to compensate for a man’s death.
The exclusion of women was more pronounced in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, where women’s participation in economic activities was perceived as anti-Islamic.
While formal law and sharia provide women the right to own and dispose of property independently, various legal, cultural, and societal barriers often obstructed women from exercising such rights. By law girls and women could inherit only half the amount of property to which their brothers were entitled.
Birth Registration: The provisional federal constitution provides that there is only one Somali citizenship and calls for a special law defining how to obtain, suspend, or lose it. As of year’s end, parliament had not passed such a law.
According to UNICEF data from 2010 to 2015, authorities registered 3 percent of births in the country. Authorities in Puntland and in the southern and central regions did not register births. Birth registration occurred in Somaliland, but numerous births in the region were unregistered. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services, such as education.
Education: The provisional constitution provides the right to a free education up to the secondary level, but education was not free, compulsory, or universal. In many areas, children did not have access to schools. Nearly one-half of the student-age population remained out of school due to barriers such as poverty in rural areas, poor school safety, exorbitant school fees, and competing household and labor demands. NGOs and nonstate private actors attempted to fill this gap, but with different curricula, standards, and languages of instruction. Preprimary Islamic education continued to be prevalent, and often led to late primary student enrollment. Girls faced additional challenges of early marriage and low prioritization of girls’ education, leading to even lower attendance. There was an insufficient supply of qualified teachers, particularly female teachers.
The government lacked funds to provide effective education countrywide, a gap partially filled by NGOs and nonstate private actors, and its reach was often limited to more secure urban areas.
Child Abuse: Child abuse and rape of children were serious problems and there were no known efforts by the government or regional governments to combat child abuse. Children remained among the chief victims of continuing societal violence.
The practice of “asi walid,” whereby parents placed their children in boarding schools, other institutions, and sometimes prison for disciplinary purposes and without any legal procedure, continued throughout the country.
Early and Forced Marriage: The provisional federal constitution requires both marriage partners to have reached the “age of maturity” and defines a child as a person younger than 18. It notes marriage requires the free consent of both the man and woman to be legal. Early marriages frequently occurred. In areas under its control, al-Shabaab arranged compulsory marriages between its soldiers and young girls and used the lure of marriage as a recruitment tool. There were no known efforts by the government or regional authorities to prevent early and forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution is illegal in all regions. There is no statutory rape law or minimum age for consensual sex. The law does not expressly prohibit child pornography. The law on sexual exploitation was rarely enforced, and such exploitation reportedly was frequent.
Child Soldiers: The use of child soldiers remained a problem (see section 1.g.).
Displaced Children: There was a large population of IDPs and children who lived and worked on the streets.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The provisional federal constitution provides equal rights before the law for persons with disabilities and prohibits the state from discriminating against them. Authorities did not enforce these provisions. The provisional federal constitution does not discuss discrimination by nongovernmental actors.
The needs of most persons with disabilities were not addressed. According to Amnesty International, persons with disabilities faced daily human rights abuses, such as unlawful killings, violence including rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced evictions, and lack of access to health care or an adequate standard of living. Children and adults with all types of disabilities were often not included in programs aimed at supporting people in the country, including humanitarian assistance. IDPs were often victims of multiple forced evictions. Domestic violence and forced marriage were prevalent practices affecting persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities faced an increased risk of rape and other forms of sexual violence, often with impunity, due to perceptions that their disabilities were a burden to the family or that such persons were of less value and could be abused.
Without a public health infrastructure, few services existed to provide support or education for persons with mental disabilities. It was common for such persons to be chained to a tree or restrained within their homes.
Local organizations advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities with negligible support from local authorities.
More than 85 percent of the population shared a common ethnic heritage, religion, and nomad-influenced culture. In most areas, the predominant clan excluded members of other groups from effective participation in governing institutions and subjected them to discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public services.
Minority groups, often lacking armed militias, continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities. Many minority communities continued to live in deep poverty and to suffer from numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.
In September an ethnically Bantu man in Mogadishu was burned to death by the family of his recently married nephew’s wife because they belonged to a higher-ranking clan.
Fighting between clans resulted in deaths and injuries (see section 1.g.).
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by imprisonment for three months to three years. The country’s penal code classifies sexual violence as an “offense against modesty and sexual honor” rather than as a violation of bodily integrity, and punishes same-sex intercourse. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no known lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations and no reports of events. There were few reports of societal violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity due to severe societal stigma that prevented LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation or gender identity known publicly. There were no known actions to investigate or punish those complicit in abuses. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms do not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to face discrimination and abuse in their local communities and by employers in all regions. The United Nations reported that persons with HIV/AIDS experienced physical abuse, rejection by their families, and workplace discrimination and dismissal. Children of HIV-positive parents also suffered discrimination, which hindered access to services. There was no official response to such discrimination.