Human Rights Council
Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia
28 September 2011
Australia commends the Independent Expert for his continuing efforts in highlighting the appalling human rights situation in Somalia. The already devastating situation has only been worsened by the onset of drought, now affecting large areas throughout the Horn of Africa.
Australia notes the Independent Expert’s concern that the Transitional Federal Government faces a deepening crisis with the onset of drought and the ongoing need to ensure the protection of civilians from conflict. To make lasting progress and gain the ongoing support of the people, it is important for the Government, alongside the international community, to capitalise on the withdrawal of the Al-Shabaab forces from Mogadishu through improvements to the accessibility of food and water, as well as the protection of civilians in this area.
Australia supports the call of the Independent Expert for an accelerated response to the drought and famine to provide the United Nations and other agencies adequate funding to avert further disaster. Australian has made a substantial contribution to the emergency response, providing over US$100 million to date, and will continue to do so.
Australia condemns the serious violations of humanitarian and human rights law perpetrated by Al-Shabaab that are detailed in the Independent Experts Report. We welcome AMISOM’s actions to limit civilian casualties, including instituting a policy of no-indirect fire and the identification of no-fire zones. Australia strongly supports the call of the Independent Expert for the Transitional Federal Government, as well as the governments of Puntland and Somaliland, to take all measures necessary to protect civilians and to prevent attacks on journalists and media organisations.
Australia supports enhanced cooperation between the African Union and the UN on issues relating to the protection of civilians, as recommend by Dr Shamsul Bari. Australia has been working with the African Union to support its development of guidelines on the protection of civilians in peace operations, and hopes this will make a positive contribution to this process.
Sexual violence against women in Somalia remains of grave concern to Australia, as do continued reports of the use of child soldiers. We welcome the recommendation of the Independent Expert to launch an awareness campaign on the situation of Somali women, and other measures to support women’s rights and their access to the justice system.
Finally, Australia notes the report commends the Transitional Federal Government for its commitment to promote and protect human rights even in the midst of war. We echo this commendation and thank the Transitional Federal Government for its considered response on 21 September, either in part or in full, to all 155 recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review appearance.