Open Letter to Kate Foster, OBE, Ambassador to Somalia

To: Ms. Kate Foster OBE Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia

May 10, 2021

Above image “Scenes from Somaliland Independence Day” “File:Scenes from Somaliland Independence Day (28988641004).jpg” by Clay Gilliland from Chandler, U.S.A. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A major reform and amendment of the Somaliland constitution are needed as Somaliland seeks international recognition and the constitution does not address freedom of expression, freedom of worship, and freedom of expression.

RE: A Letter to international community and human rights groups and democratic institutions Recommending for Immediate and Effective Reforms on Constitutional Human Rights Protections;a Call for International Support in Human Rights Protection in Somaliland

As Somaliland, we have been seeking international recognition since the country’s proclamation of independence from Somalia in 1991. As such, the Somaliland constitution should be updated to the International standards in line with the United Nations Charter and other international human rights legal instruments. This is a letter to the international community regarding the status of the protection and promotion of human rights under the constitution of Somaliland. The letter aims to bring the concerns of the human rights protections in Somaliland to the attention of the international human rights community.

The letter highlights the key human rights loopholes under the supreme law of the state and possible reform recommendations. The letter is also a formal appeal to international stakeholders to intervene and show their support for the implementation of these reforms in Somaliland. The objective is to ensure that the country attains and observes international human rights protection thresholds.

Overview

The constitution of Somaliland is premised on the general principles of equality of citizens under article 8 and a political system that is pegged on the attainment of peace, cooperation, and the plurality of political parties and democracy, as reiterated under article 9.

Despite incorporating these general principles in the constitution, the document depicts a presence of loopholes or inconsistencies that need immediate and effective human rights reforms.

This letter reiterates the essence of article 21 regarding the interpretation and implementation of the constitution. Article 21 mandates the provisions of the constitution to be interpreted and enforced in a manner consistent with international human rights legal instruments.

However, the letter seeks to clarify that some of the provisions of the constitution are inconsistent with international human rights conventions, therefore in need of immediate reforms.

Reform Recommendations

The first basis of reform is article 22 of the constitution. The article guarantees political, economic, and social rights to the citizens of Somaliland. Sub-article 1 asserts that every citizen shall have the right to participate in the political and social affairs of the country.

However, sub-article 4 limits the formation of associations where they are perceived to be unlawful. Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) envisages a justified limitation of the right to form associations on the ground of public interest or necessary for a democratic society.

The Somaliland constitution limits freedom of association when a group is perceived to be unlawful. The unlawfulness of an association should be a question of fact and not mere perception. Reforming this law will ensure that individuals will advance the right to self-determination and engagement in social associations without arbitrary interference by the government.

Freedom of expression and the formation of political parties has also been limited under the constitution. The law provides that the number of political parties should not exceed three. The consequence of this is that the citizens with minority political opinions are curtailed from making political choices. This law should be amended to allow the formation of many political parties, thus enhancing the exercise of political rights and freedoms.

This will also enhance the protection of individuals with minority political opinions, thereby enhancing the state’s democracy as anticipated by the constitution. For example, by invoking the constitution, the government deter political parties that believe in the Somalia-Somaliland reunification. However, the actual position should allow individuals and political parties with varying ideologies to express their opinions.

About the freedom to the formation of political parties, the current legal regime under Law 14 of the Somaliland constitution that provides for the formation of only three political parties also limits the tenure of a political party to ten years. This is effected by a ten-year license upon which the party should exist.

This law is both discriminative and oppressive because by requiring political parties to only operate for ten years, regardless of their performance, the constitution violates the international standards set to safeguard the freedom of association and formation of political parties.

These limitations should be subjected to reforms to increase the scope of human rights protection under the constitution. Similarly, while civil society and print media are described as independent and vibrant under the constitution, evidence shows that the government often harasses journalists and other government critics for airing their criticisms.

The reform will also limit the formation of political parties along with clan divisions. Similarly, the citizens will have the ability to determine the political future of their state without unnecessary restrictions. The other basis for reform is article 5 on religion. The article provides Islam as the religion of the state and consequently prohibits the exercise of any other religion. This is contrary to article 2, as read with article 18 of the CCPR. The CCPR guarantees every individual the right to freedom of belief and religion.

By asserting that the state’s religion is Islam and rendering the others unlawful, the constitution violates the right guaranteed to all individuals regarding the adoption and practice of any religious beliefs of their choices.

The reform of this provision is necessary to protect the rights of minority groups who prescribe to other religious practices other than Islam. The effect of the current constitution as far as the protection and enjoyment of human rights is concerned is that the rights of the minorities are not adequately secured.

For instance, the rights of minority groups on the grounds of religion or different political affiliations are not adequately guaranteed under the current constitution. Lastly, there are no provisions under the constitution to uphold different political opinions and freedom of expression. To this extent, the constitution should be amended to reflect the human rights principles, objectives, and standards.

Call for Support from International Human Rights Organization

, In conclusion, the limitations of our constitution in safeguarding and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms call for immediate and effective reforms. The constitution should be amended to reflect the international standards of human rights for the rights to conscience and religion, freedom of speech, and expression of the media and political parties and affiliations.

This letter highlights the areas of weakness in human rights protection in Somaliland and urges willing international subjects to provide their unwavering support to this endeavor.

Thank you,

Yours Sincerely,

Sultan Saciid Diiriye

Chairman,
Somaliland People’s Party

Bibliography

Demeke MA, ‘Paper Five: Freedom of Press and Democratization In
Somaliland:

Promises and Challenges’ 20 Reconstruction 113 Höhne MV, ‘Somaliland: Between Press Freedom and Limitation’ (2008)

20 Horn of Africa Bulletin 1 Pearlman S, ‘Free and Independent Media’, Research Handbook on Post-Conflict State Building (Edward Elgar Publishing 2020)

Tomuschat C, Equality, and Non-Discrimination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (de Gruyter 2019) Unies N, Minority Rights: International Standards and Guidance for Implementation (UN 2010)

Walls M, ‘Democracy in Somaliland’ (2017) 1 Education and Conflict Review 2