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MRG statement on the reform of the Xeer system in Somalia

25 September 2015

Oral Statement Minority Rights Group International

HRC 27th session ID with IE on Somalia

Thank you Mr. President,

Mister Independent Expert,

At the outset, Minority Rights Group (MRG) and its Somali partner IIDA Women’s Development Organisation would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment.

MRG and IIDA welcome the attention you give to the reform of the judiciary and we do welcome the suggestion of reforming the Xeer system and bringing the legal system in line with international human rights norms and standards.

However this does present particular challenges when it comes to victims of crimes who are from ethnic minority communities. Since the Xeer legal processes are deeply embedded in Somalia’s clan system, integrating equal treatment for minorities who do not ally with any of the major clans will involve significant reforms. These should not be underestimated. It is essential that representatives of all of Somalia’s diverse communities be involved in discussions about this reform process.

Mister Independent Expert,

We welcome your attention to the plight of IDPs in Somalia and we would like to stress that, even if figures are difficult to document, it is widely accepted that a disproportionate number of IDPs are from minority communities in Somalia. Minority women IDPs are at particular risk of sexual violence and their perpetrators benefit from almost complete impunity.

We also welcome the attention you devote to the continuing use of “gatekeepers” in the running of IDP camps, facilities and services, in the distribution of aid and humanitarian assistance. We are concerned that the clan affiliations and loyalties of “gatekeepers” result in discrimination against members of ethnic minority communities in Somalia.

While the clan system may allow humanitarian access in some extreme cases, it also has the strong potential to contribute to discrimination in allocations between clans, in particular to the detriment of ethnic minority communities in Somalia. Thus having recourse to the clan system must be a last resort and must be accompanied by safeguards to ensure that it does not result in discrimination against ethnic minorities. This is of particular concern given the possibility of increased food insecurity and malnutrition predicted in coming months.

I thank you.