Detention Activities in Somalia
Visits to people deprived of liberty is a central and historic part of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) work around the world. The first-ever detention visits were to Western Romanian and Serbian prisoners of war during WW1 1914- 1918 and visits since have ranged from seeing thousands of prisoners of war during the World Wars to visiting Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment. It has always been at the core of ICRC’s mandate and a key component of our diverse response to armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies.
ICRC’s thirty-eight year history in Somalia has included visits to prisoners during the Ogaden conflict, from 1977 to 1988 and more recently, since 2012, to persons detained in prisons, police stations and state security agencies. This complements our ongoing response to the protracted armed conflict and recurrent climactic shocks that Somalia has endured. A response that has included emergency relief, basic livelihood support and health programs.
Detention poses many challenges to detainees, their families and the authorities responsible for places of detention. The ICRC works to support the unique needs of all of these groups. Detainees must benefit from humane and dignified treatment throughout their time in detention and families must at all times be aware of the fate of their relatives and have the chance to be in contact and visit them.
Detention authorities shoulder a complex responsibility that requires many resources and specialized skills. When gaps occur or concerns arise, we discuss them confidentially with those responsible, at various levels, as a tool to foster awareness and help them make improvements. Progress is rarely as fast as all concerned would like, but in our experience this consistent, honest exchange over time is the best way to achieve a lasting impact.