Somali govt set to face UN grilling over ‘breaches of freedom of association’

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Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed/FILE PHOTO

In the face of mounting challenges, rights groups have constantly urged Somali government to respect freedom of association and Somalia’s compliance with international human rights conventions ratified by the country which has been a member of the ILO since 1960.

By Judy Maina, judy.maina@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – Somalia’s government is set to face a grilling session at the International Labor Organization (ILO) over its breaches of international obligations on freedom of association and fundamental trade union rights in Geneva, Switzerland, officials say.

In recent years, labor activists have persistently complained over ongoing harassment and the restrictions to freedom of association faced by trade unions, in what they call as a ‘systematic campaign’ of harassment, trade union interference and reprisals meted out by the authorities in the last five years, targeting labor unions.

In the face of mounting challenges, rights groups have constantly urged Somali government to respect freedom of association and Somalia’s compliance with international human rights conventions ratified by the country which has been a member of the ILO since 1960.

According to a Somali minister who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, the government will be examined at 331st Session of ILO governing body on the implementation of ILO decisions over systematic freedom of association violations against members and leaders of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

UN’s labor body is slated to consider Somalia case at its session that is scheduled to run from October 26 to November 9.

“This is a lost case because evidences against the government are incontestable. We are going to lie low for a while to avoid attention of our bosses” the Minister said by phone from Mogadishu, referring to Somali President and his premier.

Endorsing the union claims, ILO concluded that the government is responsible for serious violations of fundamental rights, in particular concerning freedom to organise trade unions and to collective bargaining, the right to peaceful assembly, interference in trade union affairs, seizure of independent trade unions and protection of trade unionists from restrictions and reprisals.

In November 2016, the ILO Governing Body validated the complaints of NUSOJ and FESTU, backed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in a ‘strongly worded legal analysis and evidences’ looking at the problem – and in many cases still is – with Somalia’s human and trade union rights environment.

According to ILO documents seen by Alleastafrica, the Somali government has been directed to implement recommendations by the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO), to stop immediately trade union rights violations and “recognize leadership of NUSOJ and FESTU under Omar Faruk Osman without delay”.

However, union activists say the directive had a little impact on the government in respecting freedom of association and union rights, given fresh allegations of human rights abuses documented by unionists.

ILO, however, recently received a favorable reaction from the government’s chief legal advisor.

Somalia’s State Attorney General Osman Elmi Guled has officially notified the government, principally the Ministries of Labor and Information who are implicated in grave human rights violations to ‘fully comply’ with ILO decisions in respect of Somalia’s international obligations.

Guled has been the lead lawyer of the government at ILO, and his acceptance of ILO decisions had marked a serious blow to the government of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, and its refusal to accept ILO verdict is depicting it as an administration that is not ‘obedient’ to international laws and could be labeled as a human rights violator.

In the meantime, ILO has subsequently urged the federal government “to provide without delay full explanations on the reasons for the arrest of Mr Abdi Adan Guled, Vice-President of NUSOJ” and provide without delay detailed information on any police investigation and judicial inquiry in relation to the assassination attempt against Mr Omar Faruk Osman.

In addition, the UN labour body has insisted the government to investigate ‘urgently’ the assassination of Mr Abdiasis Mohamed Ali, a member of NUSOJ, in an anticipation of providing a detailed report on the murder of the journalist.

(Additional reporting and editing by Jeff Mwaura in Nairobi, Kenya)

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