- Amnesty International (AI) has petitioned the government of Somaliland over the arrest of three officials of an emergent opposition party. The human rights body called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the opposition figures. They were arrested in the capital Hargeisa on 28 July.
The officials are Mohamed Abdi Gabose, a neurologist and former minister in the Somaliland and Somalia Governments; Mohamed Hashi Elmi, a civil engineer and former Mayor of Hargeisa; and Jamal Aideed, a telecommunications businessperson.
They are respectively the chairperson, the vice-chairperson and the second vice-chairperson of the newly coined Qaran party (The Nation), which is not so far legally registered but had begun informal political activities in advance of the local elections expected to take place in December this year.
Shortly before their arrest, the Interior Minister had accused Qaran leaders of “fuelling unrest” through holding public meetings. They were asked to stop holding public meetings or else face serious criminal charges.
But Amnesty International could not see an iota of justification in the minister’s threats because “there have been no demonstrations or violent incidents involving Qaran supporters.”
The three men have since been detained in Mandera prison, some 70 km east of Hargeisa. Though they were remanded after appearing before the court, Qaran leaders are yet to be charged with any offence, with authorities claiming they are still investigation their "unlawful political activities."
The AI described the political leaders as prisoners of conscience and raised fears that they might become victims of prolong detention without trial or unfair trial.
Journalist of ‘Haatuf’ were the previous prisoners of conscience in Somaliland. After their arrest and detention in January this year, the journalists were subjected to unfair trial which led to their imprisonment for years. They were pardoned by the President in March.
Only two political parties were allowed to participate in the last elections in 2002, though there was proliferation of parties at the time. The government’s excuse was to prevent the formation of parties based on clan affiliations. And with the disband of the registration in 2002, there is currently no mechanism for registering new political parties in Somaliland.
The Republic of Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but it has since then been battling to gain international recognition. It is the only part of the former Somali Republic to have established security and functioning institutions of governance and a multi-party system of government.
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