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Saturday 4th of April 2020

Documentation Center

Abuses Against Boys Accused of National Security Offenses in Somalia


Human Rights Watch

Abstract

This report is based on interviews with 15 children recruited by Al-Shabab since 2015, 10 boys held in government custody following arrests in mass sweeps, and 40 interviews with relatives of boys prosecuted by military courts, along with two dozen interviews with lawyers, advocates working with children, and senior government officials. It focuses on the government’s inconsistent and at times abusive treatment of children alleged to have been associated with Al-Shabab, particularly in Mogadishu and Puntland. It finds that the arrest and detention of children alleged to have been associated with Al-Shabab by authorities are neither a measure of last resort nor are the children held for the shortest time possible.

Human Rights Watch conducted research into nine cases in which children have been sentenced by the military court in Mogadishu since 2015, primarily where children have been charged with membership in Al-Shabab or allegations of providing logistical assistance to the armed group. In Puntland dozens of children including Hamza and children as young as 12 spent months in Garowe and Bosasso prisons and appeared before military courts since 2016. The bulk of the cases were linked to Al-Shabab’s March 2016 attack.

The report refers in particular to the following military court trials of children:

 • Five children arrested in Beletweyn, sentenced by the military court in Mogadishu on January 16, 2017 to eight years on charges of Al-Shabab membership (“armed insurrection”). Sentence reportedly upheld on appeal. They are currently serving prison sentences in Mogadishu Central Prison;

 • A 16-year-old boy (aged 18 according to court documents), arrested in Mogadishu, sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in late 2016 on charges of Al-Shabab membership;

 • Twenty-eight children ages 15 to 17 who took part in the March 2016 Al-Shabab operation in Puntland, sentenced by the military court on September 17, 2016, to between 10 and 20 years on charges of insurrection, terrorism and association with Al-Shabab. Handed over to a UNICEF-supported child rehabilitation center in Garowe in April, but sentences not rescinded; sentences reduced on appeal to 10 years on December 31, 2017;

 • Nine children and one individual qualified as a child who took part in the March 2016 Al-Shabab operation in Puntland, sentenced on June 18, 2016 to death on charges of insurrection, terrorism, and association with Al-Shabab by the military court; sentences commuted to 20 years on January 26, 2017, after they were identified as under 18 by a joint UN-government age assessment exercise. An additional two individuals were later added to this group. Handed over to a UNICEF-supported child rehabilitation center in Garowe in April, but sentences not rescinded;

 • A child and an 18-year-old among seven defendants sentenced to death for the murder of three government officials on February 15, 2017 in Bosasso; commuted to life on appeal on March 23 after they were identified as 18 and under by the authorities. Currently serving prison sentences in Bosasso prison; and;

• A child among six defendants charged with membership in ISIS in Bosasso on February 21, 2017; released in May after providing evidence to the court that they were arrested while defecting from ISIS.

Scope

Africa - Somalia

Year Language

2018 English

Category Type

Grey Literature Report

Keywords

Child, Detention, Human Rights, Offenders

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