Somalia: Human Rights Defenders Work in a Climate of Fear

Somalia: Human Rights Defenders Work in a Climate of Fear

Arbitrarily arrested, assassinated (violent reprisals), tortured, and silenced,  Somali human rights defenders are courageous some in the most exceptional situations, where they are targeted by state and non-state actors in entire Somalia.

HRDs Peaceful Assembly in Mogadishu in 2022



This report presents and sheds the light on the situation of  human rights defenders in Somalia since 2022. The term human rights defenders HRDs is used in line with the universal declaration of human rights UDHR and so is its definition. HRDs in Somalia comprise Human rights lawyers, human rights journalists and ordinary human rights activists including women and youth. The importance of their work is visible in their efforts in the documention of human rights violations against vulnerable communities and groups in Somalia and finding legal ways to fight and end the prevailing impunity in the country.


The information for this report was  gathered by the Coalition of  Somali Human Rights Defenders CSHRDs and its member organizations from primary and secondary sources.

Threats Facing Human Rights Defenders in Somalia

Legal and Institutional Framework
There are no relevant domestic laws, policies that protect HRDs in Somalia and HRDs relay only on the international conventions that are set to protect them. There is Ministry of women and human rights development in Somalia of which work and mandate does not include the protection of HRDs and there is no independent human rights commission yet sincre the last UPR recommendation for Somalia in 2021 and its ongoing establishment process is extremely politicized.

Threats and attacks against human rights defenders, including legal harassments, intimidation, and violence; HRDs in Somalia face many challenges e.g., the arbitrary arrests, assassinations and torture perpetrated by both state and non-state actors like al-Shabab militias and beyond that they are deprived from the most regional, and international programs and protection and that is because regional and international stakeholders operate outside Somalia due to their security concerns preventing them to have presence inside Somalia which complicates more the situation of HRDs at risk in Somalia. The necessity of establishing the coalition of Somali HRDs came into being as a result of this complicated context.

HRDs in Somalia work in legal and administrative obstacles hindering their work in all regions of the country including al-shabab ruled areas. There are Socio-political dynamics contributing to the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Somalia, where its newly adopted federal system complicated their situation furthermore in unprecedented manner. There is absence of international engagement and support for Somali HRDs where there is limited role of international organizations, diplomatic missions, and INGOs in supporting human rights defenders in Somalia whose work is important for protection of human rights for all in Somalia.

Specific Cases of Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Targeted Killings

  • On October 11, 2022 “Abdalle Ahmed Mumin is being arbitrarily held solely for defending the right to freedom of expression in Somalia and for raising concerns over the government’s blanket ban on what it calls ‘dissemination of extremist and terrorist ideology’. “Detaining a leading defender of human rights and press freedom on the pretext of national security sends a chilling message to journalists, human rights activists and anyone else who dares to express dissent against the Somali government. Abdalle Ahmed Mumin has committed no crime and must be immediately and unconditionally released. read the full report inthelin Somalia: Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Abdalle Ahmed Mumin – Amnesty International         
  • On August 17, journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Bulbul, Editor in Chief of Kaab Somali TV, was arrested and taken into custody in Mogadishu after allegedly investigating and publishing a story that imputed corruption within the police’s ranks. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Somali affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), in condemning the arbitrary arrest and ongoing detention of journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Bulbul by the Somali Federal Police (SPF), and demands his immediate release. Read full report in the link            Somalia: Journalist arrested after exposing alleged corruption within police – IFJ
  • On May 9, 2022: The Parliamentary Committee on Presidential Election released a memo restricting independent journalists from accessing the presidential election venue. on 15 May 2022, the day of the elections. The memo stated that journalists could follow the process through the TV screens installed outside the hall.
  • On May 23, 2022: A Somaliland court in Hargeisa, sentenced the director of MM Somali TV, Mohamed Abdi Ilig and Abdijabar Mohamed Hussein, a reporter of Horn Cable television to 16 months in prison. Both were accused of spreading fake news, after they reported the shooting that took place in the central prison in Hargeisa. The journalists were later released after paying a fine of $10,000 (Ten Thousand Dollars).
  •  On June 1, 2022, South West State police officers in the city of Barawe raided the only media house in the old city, arresting two journalists, Fu’ad Shooble, the founder of the radio Barawe and Osman Aweys Bahar, who also covers for Universal TV. Both were released without charge.
  • June 5, 2022: Omar Sebrie , a journalist who travelled from Mogadishu to Hargeisa has been arrested. As journalism is not a crime, the Somaliland authorities was requested to release the journalist.
  • June 13, 2022: Four journalists were illegally detained upon their arrival in Ergavo city of Sanaag
    region of Somaliland. Their arrival in the city has come a day after Muse Bihi, Somaliland President
    reached the city for talks with the traditional elders.
  • On June 13, 2022: Representatives from the Villa Somalia communications department barred and intimidated journalists in Mogadishu reporting on the visit of Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Under
    Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The presidential staff allegedly locked journalists in a small room for an hour to prevent them from accessing the venue.
  • Similarly, on 15th June 2022, Villa Somalia security guards prohibited journalists from covering the appointment of the new prime minister, Hamze Abdi Barre, despite the fact that all the journalists had invitations and press accreditation to cover the event.
  • On June 27, 2022: Abdikarin Mohamed Siyad and Khalid Mohamud Osman of Hirshabelle State-run media; were wounded after a landmine hit with the vehicle on board at Qabno in Hiiraan region. The attack also resulted the death of Abdirahman Adow, the driver of the journalists’
  • On July 4, 2022: Military personnel stopped two journalists at gunpoint
    while they were conducting interviews with fishermen at Liido beach.
    The military officers confiscated equipment and threatened to shoot
    Risaala Media Corporation journalist Abduqadir Osman Indhoy and his
    cameraman Mohamed Said Nur.
  • On July 5, 2022: Police officers detained RTN television reporter Mohamed
    Abdirahin Mohamed. Mohamed claims he was pursued after his interview with South West State Assembly opposition members. The political opposition member and six others had protested the revocation of their immunity and membership in the state assembly. Mohammed was warned against publishing the interview or criticizing President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed (Laftagareen).
  • On July 5, 2022: The Jubbaland president’s office banned independent media
    from covering the inaugural session of the Jubbaland Assembly’s fourth
    session in Kismayo. President Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe) addressed the regional lawmakers on 6th July 2022.
  • On July 15, 2022: National Intelligence and Security Agency forces raided the house
    of Hassan Ali Da’ud, a reporter for Arlaadi Media Network (AMN) and taken to
    unknown location. According to colleagues, the detention follows his coverage about
    a complaint made by members of South West State (SWS) opposition lawmakers in
    Baidoa on 6 July. The news was disseminated on AMN. He was held at the intelligence
    prison in Baidoa for 19 days when he was freed without charges.
  • On July 18, 2022: Police and military officers in Mogadishu’s Wadajir
    district targeted and wounded two Arlaadi Media Network (AMN)
    journalists Mohamed Nur Mohamed and Munasar Abdirahman
    during their coverage the impact of roads blocked by the ongoing
    rains due to lack of maintenance in Wadajir neighbourhood.                                                                   – –
  • On July 19, 2022: Suleyman Yusuf Ali, the Minister of Information for Somaliland,
    announced at a press conference that the government would suspend all BBC
    activities. It was unclear whether the suspension would apply to all the outlet’s
    reporting and broadcasting activities in Somaliland. Suleyman accused BBC Somali
    of losing its objectivity and was “undermining the integrity of the Somaliland state.”
    According to a BBC spokesperson, the suspension was not formally communicated.                            –
  • On August 4, 2022: Baidoa police summoned and at that moment haphazardly arrested two
    journalists from Radio Warsan, Mohamed Abdirahman Abdulle ‘Malele’ and Farah Hussein Haji ‘Weerow’. Police held the journalists at the criminal investigation department in a week before they were freed later without charges.
  • On August 11, 2022: Police in Hargeisa detained two Horyaal 24 TV journalists,
    Abdinasir Abdi Haji Nur and Ahmed-Zaki Ibrahim Mohamud after covering
    violent protests over the postponed elections in the capital city and other towns
    that day. FESOJ learned that police initially held journalists at the criminal
    investigation department before transferring them to the Mandhera prison on
    15 August. They were released by the Hargeisa court without charges.
    ion department in a week before they were freed later without charges.
  • On October 22, 2022: Somaliland police in Gabiley haphazardly arrested, Horn Cable TV
    reporter Farhan Abdi Isse on the orders of Gabiley Mayor. The journalist’s arrest follows
    after covering a news conference by Waddani opposition party members, who called for
    the Somaliland authorities to recognize Gabiley as a region instead of a town.
  • On October 23, 2022: Jubbaland intelligence authorities haphazardly detained Horn Cable
    TV reporter, Abdullahi Hussein Kilas, in Kismayo after covering an attack on a hotel in the
    heart of interim capital of Jubaland. Kilas was freed later in the day after authorities
    enforced Horn Cable TV to remove the news report.
  • On October 25, 2022: Police in Dhusamareb of Galmudug detained Dalsan TV correspondent Mowlid
    Mo’alim Hassan, following his coverage on a protest by a group of local women in the city. He was held
    at Dhusamareb police station and was not yet charged. However, he was freed later after the
    intervention of clan elders in Dhusamareb
  • In November 2023, a Somali Women Human Rights Defender WHRD (xxx), who was diagnosed with cancer, was legally harassed and denied protection by Iceland immigration known as the Norwegian immigration service in total defiance to the international human rights and humanitarian law norms where the Icelandic immigration criminalised the asylum which is basic human basic human rights  and in total disregard to the public statements released by United Nations special rapporteur (Mary Lawlor) about the situation of WHRD in question, and their decision lacked any factual and logical content and their process was unfair and very abusive to the extent that the Icelandic immigration staged insults against Somalia government; describing state issued documents in Somalia as unacceptable according to their perception, in an attempt to mislead the facts and impose their poorly judged decision. Beyond the Icelandic immigration pressured the local hospital (Landspitali) to dispute the MRI scan results (which showed cancer traces) with new Ultrasound test to prevent her from getting any sort of right to protection.
  • Women Human Rights Defender WHRD survives targeted killing in Afgoye Town, 30 km west of the capital Mogadishu.

    Habiba at the Hospital. Photo taken by CSHRDs November 2023

    Habiba Mohamed is a renown women human rights defenders in Afgooye district. She was brought to the hospital’s emergency yesterday, 14-11-2023 at 4:30 pm after sustaining serious injuries from gun fire opened at her by suspected hit men in Afgoye town.

    Habibo has been working with the Coalition of Somali Human Rights Defenders CSHRDs for a long time reporting on the Human Rights situation in Afgoye district and the lower Shabelle region.

    Habibo was shot on the back, while en route to her home, fortunately she was not killed by the bullet, but got wounded in the attack. The assailants escaped the scene and got away with the crime. There are increasing attacks and threats targeting human rights defenders. Women Human Rights Defenders are mostly targeted for their activism and gender.

    Alert by CSHRDs

  • 26-11-2023 on a Sunday, Mogadishu time 9:06 AM  – Mohamed Yusuf Ahmed (our freelance cameraman) was shot dead in front of his family when two armed men with face masks stormed his home in Madina district.  


    Another painful assassination of a colleague and very humble man (Mr Maxamed Yuusuf) comes after one week from the failed assassination of Habiba (WHRD) in Afgoye District 25 km south of Mogadishu.

    Today was another shocking day for all of us, after our colleague (Mr Maxamed Yuusuf) was reported dead in a well planned attack by three armed men with face masks.

    Eyewitnesses reported that one of the assailants stood in front of his home where two other armed men entered his home and shot him to death in front if his wife and children.

    The assailants escaped from the scene and got away with the murder as impunity prevails due to weak justice institutions in Somalia and increasing insurgency of al-shabab despite the war announced by the government against al-shabab.

    The ongoing war against alshabab stalled and the extremist insurgence improvised new tactics to target state and civilian entities, amid growing fears over the arming of local clan militias (Macawiisley) could create another security challenge for Somalia and has the potential to ignite inter – clan wars.

    CSHRDs Advocacy Team

  • On Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Mogadishu, the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) strongly condemned the brutal killing of Abdikarin Ahmed Bulhan, a highly respected journalist who had worked for Somali National Television in Abudwak city for a significant period of time.

    Bulhan, who had previously been actively involved in promoting peace and community development, tragically passed away last night due to a gunshot wound to the head. This wound was inflicted by a security guard at an orphanage called Takulo in Abudwak town, Galgaduud region, where Bulhan had been volunteering. FESOJ urges the country’s judicial institutions to promptly investigate and apprehend the individual responsible for shooting journalist Abdikarin Ahmed Bulhan. It has been reported that the suspect is currently in the custody of the Galmudug administration. Please read full report in the link The brutal murder of journalist Bulhan has instilled fear among journalists who are advocates for peace and human rights | Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ)


All International stakeholders including should consider the following:
– Policy recommendations for the Somali government to enhance the protection and support of human rights defenders

– Opportunities for international advocacy and solidarity with Somali human rights defenders
– Suggestions for international actors to strengthen their support for human rights defenders in Somalia
– Calls to action for civil society organizations and the broader community to support human rights defenders

By – CSHRD Advocacy Team

CSHRD (In the UN ECOSOC Special Consultative status since August 2023)



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