The Human Rights Journalists deplores yesterday and today’s guilty verdict and sentencing of two civilians by Hargeisa provisional court of the self declared republic of Somaliland. Naima Ahmed, a young poet and activist was charged with defamation and contempt of Somaliland statehood by publicly saying Somaliland is part of the Republic of Somalia last year and was sentenced to three years in jail. Naima was arrested at Hargeisa Airport on January 27, 2018 upon her return from Mogadishu. She was remanded into custody until April 15, 2018 when she was sentenced.
Similarly, the court on April 16, 2018 sentenced Mohamed Kayse to 18 months in prison for libel. The presiding judge accused Kayse of offending the honour of Somaliland president, Musse Bihi in a Facebook post in which he described the president as “a local president” while indeed he is a “national president.” Kayse was arrested on February 8, 2017.
The sentencing of Kayse and Ahmed for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression that is guaranteed in the Somaliland constitution is worrying.
“The rulings made by Hargeisa court yesterday and today is a disturbing setback for Somaliland’s hard-won freedom of expression,” said HRJ Chairman Ismail Sheikh Khalifa. “This guilty verdict sends the wrong message to people of Somaliland. The right to freedom of expression and press freedom are enshrined in Somaliland constitution, so people should never be jailed for their opinions.”
Somaliland has a history of tightly controlling the press freedom and freedom of expression, either through direct control, patronage, or indirect pressure. Somaliland also apprehends its nationals for merely saying Somaliland is part of Somalia and bans politicians from traveling to Mogadishu.
The HRJ denounces all violations against human rights and calls for immediate ending of these violations.