Somalia: UN human rights experts condemn recent execution of teenage girls

Shamsul Bari, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia

11 November 2010 – Several independent United Nations experts today condemned the recent public execution of two teenage girls in central Somalia, voicing deep concern that groups such as the Islamic militant Al-Shabaab are taking the Horn of Africa nation “back into the stone age.”

The two young women, who had been accused of spying in the central town of Beledweyne by the Islamic militant group known as al-Shabaab, were killed by firing squad two weeks ago in front of hundreds of residents in the town, according to media reports.

“We were horrified to learn of the public execution, reportedly carried out by Al-Shabaab insurgents on 27 October in front of hundreds of residents in Beledweyne,” the six experts said in a news release.

“We join the Somali people in condemning, in the strongest terms, these latest brutal summary executions of two young women convicted without any semblance of due process.”

The experts called on the parties to the conflict “to immediately refrain from committing acts of extrajudicial executions, torture, stonings, decapitation, amputations and floggings as well as other human rights violations, including with regard to freedom of religion.”

They voiced deep concern that groups such as Al-Shabaab are “taking Somalia back into the stone age.”

The country – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 – has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with al-Shabaab and other groups fighting the Transitional Federal Government.

According to the experts, regular indiscriminate attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, in which heavy artillery, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and roadside bombs have been used, as well as targeted assassinations, have caused thousands of deaths and injuries, as well as destruction of property, with whole neighbourhoods razed to the ground.

Shamsul Bari, the Independent Expert on Somalia, noted constant reports of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and female genital mutilation, as well as forced child marriages and the lack of educational opportunities for young girls and boys.

“Sexual violence continues to rise, not only among the approximately 1.4 million people displaced inside the country, but in other parts of Somali society,” Mr. Bari said.

In addition to Mr. Bari, the other experts voicing their concern about Somalia are the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt; the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul; and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo.

They all work in an independent and unpaid capacity, and report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

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