Somalia: Armed conflicts see thousands displaced

Armed conflicts in Mali, Sudan and Congo and the communal violence in Kenya, Nigeria and South Sudan had led to the displacement of thousands of people.

Human rights abuses by Islamist armed groups and security agencies in the name of “counter-terrorism” continued last year in Somalia and Nigeria. Use of child soldiers was also documented in Somalia, Mali, Congo and Chad. There were also some cases of discrimination and police brutality in Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, and South Africa. Many governments continued their assault on freedom of expression mainly in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Gambia, Sudan and Somalia.

The death penalty was imposed in several countries but applies only in a few. In a worrying move, the Gambia carried out last year its first executions in 30 years.


“Brutal state oppression” cracked down on freedoms of expression – both on the streets and online. People were routinely harassed, attacked, jailed and killed for “daring to challenge the authorities”. Several incidents occurred in Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, China, Maldives, South Korea and Indonesia. In North Korea, thousands of people were held in political prison camps despite not having committed any crime, and were subjected to harsh conditions.

Conflicts, natural disasters and economic reasons continued to make millions of people suffer, migrate or be displaced in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Thailand and other parts. In the region, women and girls were still being denied their fundamental rights, noticeably in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Asia-Pacific countries saw a number of developments on the death penalty in 2012. Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India all resumed executions after, in some cases, relatively long periods.


The Americas saw progress in the fight against impunity in 2012. Also, key prosecutions in Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Uruguay marked further important advances in the quest for justice for violations committed during past military governments. Nevertheless, the struggle for justice continued in some parts, including Haiti. In the US, little progress was made in holding to account those responsible for abuses committed as part of the CIA’s programme of secret detentions during the Bush administration.

Last year was also marked by slow but constant progress in ending the use of the death penalty in the Americas. The US is the only country in the region that continued to execute people. Violence against women and girls remained a serious concern, as was respect for their sexual and reproductive rights. Measures to prevent and punish gender-based violence were non-existent or ineffective.

Europe and Central Asia

Attacks on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including attacks, harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders, continued in many of the republics of the former Soviet Union, including Belarus, Russia and Tajikistan. Torture and ill-treatment remained widespread across Central Asia, where impunity for human rights violations remained the norm.

As for Europe, restrictive migration control policies and practices in several European Union countries exposed migrants to detention, international law, push-backs to the countries they entered and other human rights violations.

Meanwhile, discrimination against ethnic minorities, such as Roma continued across Europe, as well as discrimination against homosexuals. The European parliament followed up on its calls for accountability in EU member states overwhelmingly, by adopting a strong report giving fresh impetus to the search for justice and accountability for human rights violations committed in the context of the CIA renditions programme.

Middle East and North Africa

Armed conflicts and crises took a heavy toll on the region. The brutal conflict in Syria has left at least 70,000 dead since 2011, and forced 1.4 million refugees to flee the country and displaced nearly four million people.

Violence in Iraq and parts of Yemen also marred last year, while the Israeli government continued policies of collective punishment in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Meanwhile, greater space for media and civil society was achieved in countries where leaders were ousted in 2011 and 2012, but new governments have reneged on promises, such as in Egypt, Tunis and Libya. New laws tightening the control on the media were introduced in some parts and a clampdown on human rights defenders, political activists and journalists was recorded in some other parts.

Authorities in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yen all continued to use the death penalty on an “extensive scale”. Executions in the four countries accounted for 99 per cent of the regional total.


Xafiiska Wararka Midnimo,



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