Somalia’s intelligence detention center closed over abuses and criticism


MOGADISHU, Somalia – The President of Federal Republic of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has on Sunday shut down the country’s largest intelligence detention headquarters in the capital of Mogadishu.

The closure of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) detention center followed by numerous grievances and criticism by the community and Human rights organizations, according to a report published by Radio Kulmiye based in Mogadishu.

The center is where Al Shabaab and Islamic State group’s suspects are often interrogated and jailed, according to a report published by Radio Kulmiye based in Mogadishu.

Kulmiye quoting sources described the center as a place to punish harshly whoever accused of being involved in al-Shabaab and Islamic State groups.

It aired that it could be hard to know the extent of torture and violent instances of mistreatment practiced against prisoners.

Survivors of torture in the NISA’s detention have called on the international community to help to put an end to abuse.

“We faced beatings,electric shocks, and other forms of torture in the prison runs by Somali Intelligence”, Radio Kulmiye said, citing survivors.

In press conference, Somali minister of justice, Hassan Hussein Hajji said the closure of center was followed by numerous grievances and criticism.

“From now on, we will use the center as Hajji training Academy where our soldiers will be regularly trained”, Hajji said.

He says the all prisoners will transferred to the central jail in the capital of Mogadishu.

Human Rights Watch report on Somalia 

On 21st February, Human Rights Watch published a report which denounces violations committed by Somali authorities against the rights of children with alleged ties to the Islamist armed group Al-Shabaab, including unlawful detention and prosecution as adults in military courts. 

In 2016, 386 children were arrested by the security forces during operations targeting Al-Shabaab. While the government had promised to hand over captured children in security operations to the United Nations Child Protection Agency (UNICEF) for rehabilitation, it has not complied consistently, and several violations of international human rights law have occurred.

Children were often held by intelligence forces (Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in Mogadishu, or Puntland’s Intelligence agency (PIA) in Bosasso) who decided, without independent supervision, how they categorised children, how long they kept children, and if and when they handed them over to UNICEF.

Detained children have reported to Human Rights Watch about instances of mistreatment, torture, deprivation of the right to legal counsel, isolation from relatives, and placement with adult detainees. 

The criminal proceedings applied to these children failed to meet basic juvenile standards. Making use of an outdated legal system, the authorities tried them for security crimes in military courts, primarily as adults. Moreover, these children were unable to prepare a proper defence and were coerced into confessions, which were then unlawfully admitted as evidence.

Even though over 250 children have been handed over to UNICEF by the authorities since 2015, most have spent considerable time in detention before that, and their release only happened as a result of sustained advocacy.

Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report claimed that “the Somali government should treat children as victims of the conflict, and ensure that children, regardless of the crimes they may have committed, are accorded the basic protection due to all children”. She also called for a strengthening of child-specific procedures by international partners, as well as actions towards greater rehabilitation and supervision for detained children on the part of the country’s authorities.