SJS Secretary-General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin. | PHOTO/SJS.
SJS Secretary-General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin. | PHOTO/SJS.

MOGADISHU, Somalia / Washington, U.S 15 September, 2023 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) have submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee for the case of SJS Secretary-General and human rights defender, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin.

Mumin is a renowned journalist who was thrice arbitrarily arrested, detained, and tortured by Somali state security forces in reprisal for his work, often critical of the Somali government. Abdalle Mumin worked as a freelancer as well as for international news outlets, including the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. Through his role as the Secretary General of the SJS, Abdalle advocates for press freedom, journalists’ rights, and an enabling civic space in Somalia.

In October 2022, Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officers detained Abdalle Mumin without a warrant after he refused to retract a press statement expressing concerns that a directive from Somalia’s Ministry of Information, which “prohibited dissemination of extremism ideology messages,” could restrict legitimate free expression. Following his arrest, Mumin was arbitrarily detained in abhorrent conditions, where he was deprived of food and clean water and subjected to lengthy interrogations about his statements criticizing the government policy. He was rearrested later that month when he attempted to travel to Kenya to seek medical care for the injuries he sustained in detention.

In February 2023, NISA officers arbitrarily arrested Mumin for a third time and threatened to kill him if he resisted. He was again detained and tortured by officers who beat him with their guns, threatened to kill him, and deprived him of food and water. For 33 days, the Somali government held Mumin in an overcrowded prison cell where he continued to suffer harassment and physical assault by the prison guards. Today, Abdalle Mumin is still dealing with the significant physical and mental health impacts of his repeated detention and ill-treatment.

“Abdalle Mumin is a fearless human rights defender who has partnered with us at RFK Human Rights to advocate for the protection of other journalists in Somalia. Instead of heeding his call, the Government retaliated against him and subjected him to gruesome mistreatment hoping to silence him. We are inspired by Abdalle’s grit and sustained passion for human rights and urge the authorities to cease and desist from stifling dissent in Somalia,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

The complaint establishes that Somalia violated several of Mumin’s rights, including his right to freedom of expression, by highlighting the connection between the actions taken by Somali state officials and his activities as a journalist and human rights defender. It states that the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture he experienced were intended to have both a punitive and deterrent impact on Mumin and his journalistic and advocacy activities. It further adds that silencing Abdalle Mumin creates a broader chilling effect on other journalists and civil society, which imperils an informed public and a functioning democracy.

These activities by Somali authorities are part of a pattern and practice of attempting to silence journalists and other activists critical of the Government. In February 2020, Somali journalist and human rights defender Mohamed Abdiwahab Nuur (“Abuuja”) was detained and tortured in retaliation for an editorial he published three days earlier criticizing Somali security forces for engaging in threats and intimidation against Somali citizens. After enduring a second arrest and detention lasting several months, Mr. Nuur was finally released in August 2020. Due to the “extremely serious” nature of the case, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion declaring Mr. Nuur’s arrest and detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law.

Despite this censure, Somalia continues to arbitrarily arrest and detain journalists when they express criticism of the Government. In August 2023, plainclothes individuals appearing to be linked to Somali national security forces violently arrested and detained Mohamed Ibrahim Osman Bulbul, Secretary of Information and Human Rights at SJS, after he exposed corruption among Somali police officers. Meanwhile, ongoing cyber attacks continue to target SJS platforms.

“We are pleased to collaborate with the legal counsels from RFK Human Rights in the submission to the UN Human Rights Council. This submission pertains to the alarming circumstances surrounding the abduction-style detention, persecution, torture, and ill-treatment endured by our Secretary-General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, at the hands of Somali authorities in Mogadishu,” Mohamed Ibrahim, President of SJS said. “Abdalle Mumin is not only the most senior and prominent journalist but also a leader actively championing human rights. Those who targeted and subjected him to persecution must be held accountable. We eagerly anticipate the UN Human Rights Council’s intervention in this case, sending a clear message that those who pose threats to journalists like Abdalle Mumin will face consequences.”

SJS and RFKHR strongly condemns the Somali government’s use of arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture to repress freedom of expression. We call on the Government to implement safeguards to prevent abuse and torture by state law enforcement against detainees in compliance with international law. We also urge the Somali authorities to respect freedom of expression and opinion, especially press freedom, and to ensure an enabling environment for civic space.