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15 August 2017


Somalia: Information on the Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN, also known as INXA), including foundation, objectives, structure, and leadership; treatment of staff and supporters of human rights groups, including PHRN, by Al Shabaab (2005-2013)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN)
1.1 Foundation of the NGO

According to sources, the Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN) is also known by the acronym INXA (Hay'adda Isku Xirka Nabadda iyo Xuqquqda Aadamiga) (PHRN May 2011; Saggiomo 2014; Conciliation Resources 2013, 47). Sources indicate that PHRN was created in 1997 (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013; Saggiomo 2014; Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 115). According to PHRN's website, it is a "non-governmental human rights network" that was initially formed "by twenty six (26) indigenous member [o]rganizations based in south central and [P]untland zones" (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). According to Oxfam Novib, the Dutch affiliate of the international Oxfam organization (Oxfam Novib N.d.), one of PHRN's funders, PHRN's member organizations "represent a broad spectrum of civil society, such as reporters, teachers, former militia members, human rights organisations, and women" (Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 115-116). According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), PHRN is listed as a civil society organization that has contributed to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for Somalia (UN n.d.a).

1.2 Objectives

According to its website, PHRN's mission statement is:

Facilitating the participation of the Somali community in the endeavors of achieving sustainable peace and promoting the respect of human rights and good governance through awareness raising and reconciliation. (PHRN n.d.)

According to sources, PHRN's objectives include:

  • promoting peace (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013; Saggiomo 2014; Conciliation Resources 2013, 47);
  • promoting democracy and good governance (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013);
  • promoting and protecting human rights (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013; Saggiomo 2014; IPSTC 2015, 9);
  • promoting participatory development (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013); and
  • empowering women (PHRN n.d.; LAW Jan. 2014, 7).

According to PHRN's website, its activities and accomplishments include:

Organized reconciliation forums for the warring clans/factions.

Organized political forums to bring reforms and reconstruct Somalia.

Advocated for the validation of Somalia membership in international agreements, include the Lome/[Cotonou] convention.

Promotion of peace activities through social events and activities.

H[adrawi] Peace March throughout Somalia.

Organized awareness raising program through radio and TV programs[.]

Advocated and organized the first civil society congress.

Advocated for existence of Transitional Federal Government.

Advocated Somalia to end the transition period to full statehood central federal government of Somalia. (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013)

Similarly, Oxfam Novib notes that PHRN has, among other activities:

  • "participated in many peace meetings" (Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 9);
  • spoken to parliamentarians regarding human rights and "lobbied and advocated for the introduction of a quota system which provided for women's affirmative action" (Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 81); and
  • led the Hadrawi Peace March (Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 82).

The same source also reports that PHRN works on issues such as "the demobilization of the militia, public law, voters['] education, [and] election monitoring" (Oxfam Novib Aug. 2007, 115-116).

1.3 Structure and Leadership

The information in the following paragraph comes from two separate pages of PHRN's website:

PHRN's strategy includes a "participatory bottom-up approach" (PHRN n.d.). Its structure includes a general assembly, an executive committee, an internal audit and control committee, coordination offices, and task forces (PHRN n.d.). The general assembly is "the highest governing body of PHRN which articulates the Network's vision, mission and approves its activities" (PHRN n.d.). It discusses and approves programs and the annual budget on a yearly basis with all member NGOs of PHRN (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). The regular general assembly meetings take place every two years (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). The internal audit and control committee "is elected from the general assembly and responsible to carry [out] overall organizational audit quarterly - the findings of the audit report submits to the general assembly" (PHRN n.d.). The executive committee

is responsible for the PHRN's strategies to achieve the vision of the [g]eneral [a]ssembly, for maintaining the [o]rganization's focus on its short and long-term goals, managing its day to day activities, monitoring and controlling its plans, resources and programs, and measuring and correcting its activities to ensure that they conform to plan. (PHRN n.d.)

The executive committee approves projects for fundraising in the context of the annual budget and other PHRN programs (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). It meets twice a month (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). The coordination offices include a main office in Mogadishu, as well as "sub offices" in Puntland and southwest Somalia; these offices implement "the day-to-day activities of the [o]rganization and coordinate task forces under the guidance of the [e]xecutive [c]ommittee and Chairperson" (PHRN n.d.). PHRN "works through three main taskforces": the Human Rights Task Force, the Awareness Raising Task Force, and the Reconciliation Task Force (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). These task forces "conduct assessments and make recommendations on the design of the projects and implement the project activities based on their sector of operations" (PHRN n.d.). They "meet every thirty days" (PHRN 16 Mar. 2016). "[A] number of [PHRN's] projects … were fully funded by CARE/USAID, EU and Oxfam Novib as a partner" (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013). Oxfam Novib describes PHRN as one of its partners (Oxfam Novib 7 Apr. 2010, 35).

According to a 2008 article published by IRIN, then the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN n.d.), the head of PHRN was Abdinasir Ahmed (UN 24 June 2008). A 2013 article on the website of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) [1] indicates that Abdi Farah Dhere was "deputy chair of the [PHRN] and head of its sub office in Bosaso region, Puntland" until he was killed on 13 July 2013 by "two unidentified men as he left a mosque in the northern part of Galkayo town" (EHAHRDP 17 July 2013). In a 2016 report, EHAHRDP notes that "no one has yet been held to account for his murder" (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 15). Further and corroborating information on the leadership of PHRN could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Treatment of Human Rights Defenders by Al Shabaab
2.1 Al Shabaab

Sources indicate that Al Shabaab [also spelled al-Shabab; also known as Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, or the Youth] is a militant Islamist group based in Somalia (Human Rights Watch 16 Apr. 2013; CFR 13 Mar. 2015; US 18 Mar. 2008). According to sources, it came to prominence in Somalia in 2006 (BBC 9 Dec. 2016; The Guardian 16 Aug. 2011; ACLED Apr. 2013). Sources indicate that it formally allied itself with al-Qaeda in February 2012 (BBC 9 Dec. 2016; CFR 13 Mar. 2015). Sources report the following regarding the territory controlled by Al Shabaab:

  • southern Somalia (The Guardian 16 Aug. 2011; Canada n.d.);
  • south-central Somalia (ACLED Apr. 2013, 1);
  • rural areas (BBC 9 Dec. 2016; ACLED 2013, 2; EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 1) and
  • the capital Mogadishu and surrounding environs (ACLED 2013).

For further information on Al Shabaab, see Response to Information Request SOM105662 of November 2013.

2.2 Treatment

According to a 2008 article on the EHAHRDP website, in 2008, there was an increase in the "harassment, kidnapping and targeted assassination of aid workers as well as peace and human rights workers" (EHAHRDP 18 July 2008). The same source states that PHRN is "at risk as a result of an increasingly insecure situation in Mogadishu and the targeted threats against human rights activists" (EHAHRDP 18 July 2008). The US Department of State's Country Reports for Human Rights Practices for 2009 and 2010 state that there had been an increase in "al-Shabaab's targeting of civil society groups, peace activists, media, and human rights" organizations and that human rights groups, including the PHRN, "were active during the year, although less than previously because of the increased targeting by al-Shabaab" (US 11 Mar. 2010; US 8 Apr. 2011, 35). Further information on the treatment of PHRN by Al Shabaab could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In a 2010 report by Oxfam Novib, a program officer with PHRN notes that fear of reprisals is an obstacle in "defending human rights" and that

[t]he perpetrators are hard to find and survivors are, for fear of reprisal, often not prepared to report violations. Organisations hesitate to speak out on human rights violations, and those that do are threatened with death if they do not stop their work. (Oxfam Novib 7 April 2010)

In its submission to the 2011 UPR, PHRN reports that "human rights defenders often receive threats, anonymous calls, intimidations, SMS messages and other forms of terrorizations" and are subjected to "assassinations, murders or suffer from abductions, arrests, locking of offices, confiscation of properties, and suspension of operations" on account of their advocacy work, and that many activists have fled the country, "often blaming the groups opposing the government" (PHRN May 2011, 3). In a 2016 report, EHAHRDP states that a journalist received "text messages from Al Shabaab - threatening his life - due to his coverage of the ongoing armed conflict in south central Somalia" (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 4).

According to the 2011 US Country Reports, there were "attacks on NGOs" and as "a result of killings, kidnappings, threats, and harassment, some organizations evacuated their staff or halted relief food distribution and other aid-related activities" (US 11 Mar. 2010). The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted in 2011 that Al Shabaab had seized "property and equipment belonging to several [NGOs] and UN agencies" (UN 28 Nov. 2011).

The 2012 US Country Reports states that "attacks and incidents of harassment of humanitarian, religious, civil society, and NGO workers resulted in deaths" and that "[s]everal human rights defenders fled the country" (US 19 Apr. 2013, 36). In its 2012 Freedom in the World report, Freedom House states that the conflict in Somalia "forced many NGOs and UN agencies operating in Somalia to either reduce or suspend their activities" (Freedom House 2012).

In a February 2016 report detailing attacks on human rights defenders in Somalia and Somaliland, EHAHRDP states that "Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the majority of appalling human rights violations against human rights defenders" (Feb. 2016, 10). The same source further notes that in "south central Somalia, the main perpetrator of violence against human rights defenders is Al Shabaab" (Feb. 2016, 14).

2.3 Incidents of Violence

According to the 2016 EHAHRDP report, "non-state actors such as Al Shabaab have threatened [human rights defenders] and carried out a number of killings to target those exposing human rights violations taking place across the country" (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, vi). Sources have reported the following incidents of violence against human rights activists in Somalia:

  • The abduction of "an employee of Care International" near El-Dheer (Galgadud region) in June 2008; this followed the previous abduction of another CARE employee six weeks prior (UN 24 June 2008). IRIN reports that this "incident prompted CARE, one of the largest aid agencies in the war-torn country, to suspend its operations in Galgadud" (UN 24 June 2008). PHRN's website states that CARE/USAID is one of its funders (PHRN 16 Mar. 2013);
  • The killing of peace activist and regional director of the Center for Research and Dialogue (CRD) Mohamed Hassan Kulmiye in Beledweyne, central Somalia, on 22 June 2008 by unidentified gunmen (US 25 Feb. 2009; Reuters 22 June 2008);
  • The killing of "Abdullahi Abdi Egal, a National Reconciliation Commission member in Baidoa" by Al Shabaab on 1 January 2009 (US 11 Mar. 2010);
  • "In January 2010, the body of an employee of a Mogadishu-based NGO was found a day after he was kidnapped by Shabaab gunmen" (Freedom House 2011);
  • In late 2011, the "director of a human rights organisation" was detained by Al Shabaab and reported that "the messages, anonymous phone calls and text messages [he] received before being taken were from Al Shabaab. In one text they swore to kill [him]" (EHAHRPD Feb. 2016, 14);
  • "On 23 July 2013, Adan Salah Abdallah, a human rights monitor in the southwest region of Somalia, was arrested by Al Shabaab fighters" and on 18 November 2013, his family "received the news he had been killed" (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 16).

3. State Protection

The US State department reports the following:

Prominent peace activists, clan elders, and their family members became targets and were either killed or injured for their roles in attempted peace-building[,] … the government neither identified nor was able to punish the perpetrators. Reports indicated that al-Shabaab and its affiliated militias were behind many of these killings. (US 11 Mar. 2010)

In its 2011 submission to the UPR, PHRN states that Somalia lacks an "effective government" to deal with the human rights situation in Somalia, including "endangered [h]uman [r]ights [d]efenders" (PHRN May 2011, 1).

A 2011 article by ReliefWeb, OCHA's online service which provides information on "global crises and disasters" (UN n.d.b), quotes [g]overnment of Somalia spokesperson Abdirahman Omar Osman as stating that "Al-Shabaab is responsible for most of [the] human rights violations that happen in Somalia" and that the government takes "very seriously … all allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations" (UN 15 Aug. 2011). According to a document produced by Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, they accepted the recommendations 98.109 to 98.110 and 98.119 to 98.128, among others, of the 2011 UPR (Somalia 21 Sep. 2011). The 2011 UPR, paragraph 98.110 recommends "[e]radicat[ing] the continued impunity for perpetrators of crimes against freedom of expression" (UN 11 July 2011, 19, para. 98.110). Paragraph 98.121 provides the following: "[r]espect, in close cooperation with 'Somaliland' and 'Puntland,' freedom of expression and protect journalists and human rights defenders from abuses aimed at preventing them from exercising their legitimate activity" (UN 11 July 2011, para. 98.121). In their response to the 2011 UPR, Somalia states that

[t]he [g]overnment will do everything it can to conduct timely and impartial investigations into the killings and threats of violence against journalists and civil society actors and take all the necessary measures to ensure their personal security. (Somalia 21 Sep. 2011, para. 98.70)

The same source further states that

[t]he [g]overnment is committed to strengthening the judiciary in order to end the persisting culture of impunity and ensuring that those responsible for violations of human rights and IHL [International Humanitarian Law] are held to account for their actions. (Somalia 21 Sep. 2011, para. 98.102)

In contrast, according to the 2016 EHAHRDP report, there is a "pattern of inadequate criminal investigations into violations committed against [human rights defenders]" as well as an "unwillingness and/or inability" of the government to carry out investigations (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 1). EHAHRDP further states that

[r]epeated failures by the Somali government to investigate and prosecute has created a climate of impunity in which those who commit such violations can continue to do so without fear of being held accountable. (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, 17)

Without providing further detail, the same source states that EHAHRDP "has been working extensively with Somali [human rights defenders]" since 2005 and in 2012, "deemed it necessary to establish a 'Special Program'" to assist human rights defenders and approximately 200 have benefitted from these programs, including "capacity building on protection, risk assessment and security management tools" (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, vi). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] According to a report by Oxfam Novib, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) [previously called the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, or EHAHRDN, or EHAHRD-Net] is an organization that advocates for and supports human rights defenders; it was established with support from Oxfam Novib and has 65 affiliated human rights organizations (7 Apr. 2010, 35). It is also known by the name DefendDefenders (EHAHRDP Feb. 2016, vi).


Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED). April 2013. Country Report: Somalia. [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Amnesty International. 27 June 2011. Annual Report: Somalia 2011. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 9 December 2016. "Who Are Somalia's al-Shabab?" [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Canada. N.d. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). "Awareness Guide - Listed Terrorist Entities." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). 13 March 2015. Jonathan Masters and Mohammed Aly Sergie. "Al-Shabab." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Conciliation Resources. 2013. "Somali Women and Peacebuilding." By Faiza Jama in Accord Insight: An International Review of Peace Initiatives. Women Building Peace. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). February 2016. "Between a Rock and a Hard Place": Human Rights Defenders under Attack in Somalia and Somaliland. [Accessed 19 July 2017]

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). 17 July 2013. "Somalia: Investigate Killing of Puntland Human Rights Defender." [Accessed 12 July 2017]

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). 18 July 2008. "Increasing Targeting of Members of the Somali Human Rights Community." [Accessed 13 July 2017]

Freedom House. 2012. "Somalia." Freedom in the World 2012. [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Freedom House. 2011. "Somalia." Freedom in the World 2011. [Accessed 18 July 2017]

The Guardian. 16 August 2011. Xan Rice. "Q&A: Somalia's Al-Shabaab Rebel Group." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Human Rights Watch. 16 April 2013. "Somalia: New Al-Shabaab Attacks Are War Crimes." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC). 2015. Women's Capacity in Peace-building: A Case of Marsabit County in Northern Kenya. Occasional Paper Series 6, No. 2. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

IRIN. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 3 August 2017]

Legal Action Worldwide (LAW). January 2014. Women's Rights in the New Somalia: Best Practice Guidelines for MPs and CSOs. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

Oxfam Novib. 7 April 2010. Annual Report 2009. [Accessed 19 July 2017]

Oxfam Novib. August 2007. External Evaluation of Oxfam Novib's strategy in Somalia: Sythesis Report. [Accessed 19 July 2017]

Oxfam Novib. N.d. "Our Story." [Accessed 09 Aug. 2017]

Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN). 16 March 2013. "Background Information." [Accessed 12 July 2017]

Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN). May 2011. Submission to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Somalia. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN). N.d. "PHRN Strucuture." [Accessed 12 July 2017]

Reuters. 22 June 2008. Abdi Sheikh. "Somali Activist Assassinated, U.N. Boss Kidnapped." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Saggiomo, Valeria. 2014. "Building the State from Below: Networks of NGOs and the Politics of Civil Society in Somalia." Informal Power in the Greater Middle East: Hidden Geographies. Edited by Luca Anceschi, Gennaro Gervasio and Andrea Teti.

Somalia. 21 September 2011. Somali Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other Specialized Institutions in Switzerland. (SPR/UNOG/000431/11) [Accessed 20 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). 16 August 2013. Human Rights Council (HRC). Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari. (A/HRC/24/40) [Accessed 17 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). 28 November 2011. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "Somalia: ERC Valerie Amos Calls on Al-Shabaab to Withdraw from Seized Humanitarian Compounds." [Accessed 17 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). 15 August 2011. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). ReliefWeb. "Somali Government Refute Human Rights Watch Allegations." [Accessed 17 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). 11 July 2011. Human Rights Council (HRC). Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Somalia. (A/HRC/18/6) [Accessed 20 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). 24 June 2008. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "End Attacks Against Aid Workers, Agencies Urge." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). N.d.a. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Universal Periodic Review - Somalia - Reference Documents. [Accessed 21 July 2017]

United Nations (UN). N.d.b. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). ReliefWeb. "What is ReliefWeb?" [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017]

United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Somalia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. [Accessed 13 July 2017]

United States (US). 8 April 2011. Department of State. "Somalia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010. [Accessed 17 July 2017]

United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Somalia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 12 July 2017]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Somalia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 18 July 2017]

United States (US). 18 March 2008. Department of State. "Designation of al-Shabaab." [Accessed 18 July 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Academics researching NGOs in Somalia; CARE/USAID; EHAHRDP; Oxfam Novib; PHRN/INXA; Researcher specializing in military and security issues in Sub-Sharan Africa.

Internet sites, including: Africa Confidential; Africa Research Bulletin; Al Jazeera; The East African; Factiva; Hiiraan Online; Horseed Media; Mogadishu Post; Le Monde; Puntland Post; Radio France internationale; Review of African Political Economy; Shabelle News;; UN – Refworld; Wardheer News.