Release of thousands of detainees secured in Somalia

14 Apr 2009

14 April – Over the past two years, the UNDP-supported Police Advisory Committee (PAC) has secured the release of more than 5,000 detainees in South Central Somalia, an achievement celebrated during the PAC’s annual debriefing meeting last week in Kampala.

The Police Advisory Committee was established in the summer of 2007 by former Transitional Federal Government Minister Dr. Fatma Ahmed Nur, with UNDP’s support.  UNDP has supported the PAC since its establishment and will continue to do so. UNDP funds the committee and helps with logistics, training, data collection, reporting, legal issues, and the implementation of its mandate.

The PAC monitors, mentors and trains Somali police force and prison personnel how to treat detainees with dignity. The committee comprises 12 senior representatives from civil society, law and human rights organizations, the Ministry of Interior, and the Somali Police Force.

Dr. Nurta, another member of the PAC, commented on the circumstances of the detainees in the Mogadishu police stations and Mogadishu Central Prison.  “We visit the police stations, the holding cells of the central investigation unit, and the central prison on a daily basis,” Dr. Nurta said.  “I am proud to say that through the work of PAC, the circumstances of the detainees have improved considerably…We have seen situations where hygiene standards were awful, where no clean drinking water was available, where medical attention was lacking. We tell the police what to do, we question them, explain what the rights of the detainees are.”

The PAC works closely with community elders in the 16 districts of Mogadishu. The elders accompany the PAC teams during their visits and use their moral authority to mentor the police and prison staff. The PAC also negotiates the release of detainees, based on either legal grounds or humanitarian considerations.  The PAC monitors the procedural aspects of a case, checking that a detainee has been registered and that the circumstances of the arrest are clear. It ensures that an investigative officer is appointed and that the right to fair treatment is established.

For vulnerable groups like children and women, the committee has initiated separate holding areas, is requesting that breastfeeding mothers be treated fairly, and has secured access to clean drinking water in the central prison. But much more needs to be done. Dr. Fatma stresses the need to continue and expand the work of the PAC to other parts of Somalia. She hopes that the PAC develops into an independent oversight body, under a constitutional framework.

Fast facts

• 1,500 detainees released in 2007 through PAC intervention, out of a total of 5,188 registered detainees (29%).
• 3,961 detainees released in 2008 through PAC intervention, out of a total of 8,648 (45%), including 334 women and 793 children.