UNPOS and Human Rights

Monitoring, capacity-building and mainstreaming human rights within Somalia

Somalia has suffered a human rights crisis for the last 20 years, characterized by serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The protection of civilians in the context of the armed conflict, combined with impunity and lack of accountability, is of major concern. The lack of rule of law and the climate of insecurity has created an environment in which certain categories of professionals, such as journalists and judges, are increasingly targeted for extrajudicial killings. An entire generation has grown up with access to education and the country as a whole suffers from a lack of knowledge about human rights. Women and children’s rights are routinely violated.
The collapse of the humanitarian situation has further aggravated the human rights crisis and resulted in massive displacement of Somalis from the Southern regions into TFG-controlled territories and across the borders into Ethiopia and Kenya. The vulnerability of the displaced has raised acute protection concerns. In the margins of the 18th session of the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has advocated for a human rights based approach to the immediate, medium and long-term strategies for addressing the food crisis. 
In 2011, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights facilitated Somalia’s engagement in the Universal Period Review of the Human Rights Council. Somalia accepted, fully or in part, all 155 recommendations formulated by Member States for the improvement of its human rights record.
These recommendations cover a wide range of issues including:
  • political process;
  • peace and reconciliation;
  • protection of civilians in the context of the armed conflict;
  • ratification of international human rights instruments; and
  • development of human rights-compliant legislative and policy frameworks, including at the level of the Constitution, establishment of a national human rights institution, and the strengthening of civilian police and the judiciary, among others. 
The Universal Period Review recommendations provide a comprehensive roadmap for improving the human rights situation in Somalia.

The role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights implements its Somalia programme through the Human Rights Unit of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). The Human Rights Unit was created in 2008 with a mandate to carry out monitoring and capacity-building, as well as to mainstream human rights within the activities of the UN Country Team for Somalia. 
In 2011, the UNPOS Human Rights Unit:
  • Translated core human rights treaties and Universal Period Review documentation into Somali;
  • Developed an advanced human rights curriculum for judicial staff and trained judicial instructors from across Somalia on human rights;
  • Facilitated a human rights review of the draft Constitution, in collaboration with the Ministry for Constitutional Affairs, with the participation of civil society representatives;
  • Documented sexual violence in camps for internally displaced persons in Mogadishu;
  • Mainstreamed human rights in security sector development by advocating in relevant working groups for the protection of civilians, accountability of security forces, and treatment of ex-combatants in accordance with human rights law;
  • Strengthened the national human rights protection system by providing technical advice on legislation and advancing the creation of regional human rights institutions in Somaliland and Puntland;
  • Trained correction officers in Somaliland on human rights and rule of law.
  • Trained staff from legal aid clinics in Somaliland on human rights;
  • Assisted Puntland authorities with the development of a policy on internally displaced persons in line with international standards;
  • Participated in pre-deployment trainings for troop-contributing countries to AMISOM; and
  • Facilitated visits by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia as well as a visit by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in December 2011.
The Human Rights Unit of UNPOS contributes to the quarterly Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, the Secretary-General’s report on Piracy and the annual report of the Secretary-General on Violence against Women in Conflict.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Somalia programme priorities for 2012-2013

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has identified the following thematic priorities for its Somalia programme in 2012-2013:
  • Combating impunity and strengthening accountability, the rule of law, and democratic societies, with an emphasis on institution and capacity building;
  • Protecting human rights in situations of violence and insecurity, with a focus on the protection of civilians, internally displaced persons and journalists;
  • Countering discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against women and ethnic minorities;
  • Supporting the signature, ratification and implementation of human rights treaties and facilitating Somalia’s effective cooperation with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; and 
  • Raising awareness about economic and social rights.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Somalia page:



UN Documentation – Guiding the work of the UNPOS Human Rights Unit 

Reports on the human rights situation in Somalia:

  • A/HRC/21/36 (21 September 2012) – Report of the Secretary-General on "United Nations support to end human rights abuses and combat impunity in Somalia" presented at the Human Rights Council session on Somalia, on 28 September 2012. The report contains a number of observations and recommendations on human rights of high relevance to the UN in Somalia. 
  • A/HRC/21/62 (22 August 2012) – The annual report of the Independent Expert of the Human Rights Council on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, which includes a range of recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in Somalia. They include stronger human rights monitoring, alignment of programmes to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations, work on justice and improvement of detention conditions amongst others.
  • A/HRC/20/16/Add.3 (14 May 2012) - Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, following her visit to Somalia from 9 to 16 December 2011.

Human Rights Unit Publications in Somali: