Bosaso – Access to justice in Somalia is not easy.
After decades of civil war, the country is still struggling to rebuild its judicial system and legal institutions, including constitutional courts, and the rule of law remains weak. .
In fact, many Somalis face discrimination when seeking justice or are unaware of their legal rights. The situation is even more difficult for certain segments of Somali society: youth, women, internally displaced persons (IDPs), minorities, and the disabled.
In the port town of Bosaso, in the northern part of the Federal Member State of Puntland, one woman is trying to change this.
“I will provide legal aid and representation for those in society who do not have a voice. As part of my ongoing support, I will provide advice, fight for an unfair trial, and eliminate the lack of punishment,” said 55-year-old Fadumo Salad Ahmed. a local volunteer and paralegal.
The way Ms. Ahmed’s desire to become a civil rights activist came from his dream of becoming a lawyer to help the poor as a child growing up in Qardho district. However, these aspirations were dashed as he had limited financial resources and had to leave school at an early age to support his ten-member family.
However, she continued to nurture her dream, even when she was married and had six children, one of whom was an eleven-year-old son with a physical disability, and she was the primary caregiver.
In 1993, at the age of 25, he moved to the port city of Bosaso where he had more opportunities for himself and his family. And that’s when his dream woke up.
Over the next few years, while working as a social worker, she learned lessons that would help her become a paralegal.
“In 2008 and 2009, I completed legal aid training offered by the Tadamun Social Society – these courses allowed me to improve my knowledge,” he said.
Headquartered in Bosaso, the Tadamun Social Society (TASS) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1992 to ensure the continuity of education in Somalia amid the civil war. Since then, it has branched out into humanitarian aid, the promotion of human rights, the promotion of social and economic well-being and good governance to improve people’s lives and dignity.
Ms. Ahmed to the courses provided by TASS.
“I knew that if I didn’t empower myself, I would never achieve my goals. Even though I came from a small family, I still had time to study while taking care of my children. It was not an easy task, but I pulled it off and here I am, contributing to my community. In the end, everything went according to plan,” he said.
By 2010, he had completed his paralegal training and started working at a regional legal aid center supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The center provided free legal aid to vulnerable groups, such as women, members of minorities, and economically disadvantaged communities. The victim workers helped claimants assemble their legal cases, advised on legal rights and obligations, and offered assistance in solving problems through traditional forms of dispute resolution.
“I provided free legal representation in Puntland courts for economically disadvantaged people – mostly IDPs, refugees, women, children, people who are not protected by their families, small, ” he said.
“But I really represented many vulnerable communities in Bosaso’s IDP camps,” he added. “These people have no advocates, no representation, no family members to support them through the court process and compensation. [legal fees].”
Unfortunately, UNDP funding for the center ended in early 2022 due to lack of funding, and most of its 20 staff members were let go.
Ms. Ahmed to continue, even under low circumstances – instead of working from the office, he continues his work from his home while he supports his family through a small shop that sells He eats food and non-food items and tea.
“Currently, I receive one or two cases every day in my home. The women in the IDP camps learn about my work, they come to my house, give advice and help them to access their rights. I will go to court, I will ask the court to exempt them from the document fees and follow the cases until the final decision is reached,” he said. .
Providing legal support without pay all the time while raising six children is a real challenge, but a lawyer also has the problem of taking on what has become a volunteer job.
“I face security challenges when I help the vulnerable because I work in an environment where people are armed, so I sometimes have problems when it comes to to the work I do for those in need,” he says. I didn’t stop what I was doing.”
When asked why he continues to do what he does, he says it’s a job he can’t ignore, especially when he sees the living conditions and problems faced by the people he visits. he said, such as IDPs and poor families in Bosaso – especially when dealing with cases of child abuse and gender-based violence among vulnerable groups, which seen in politics.
“The reason for this is that they do not have families that have a strong influence in their area to support them in paying hospital bills and court fees when they are sick. them, and not for protecting them when their rights are violated – this is why human rights violations continue in IDP camps,” he said.
According to Ms. Ahmed that achieving a successful result in these cases is a very motivating factor.
He recalls a high-profile local domestic violence case that happened five years ago, and he worked with the legal team to help the victim.
“In 2017, at the IDP center in Bosaso, a man beat his wife to the extent of serious injury to her face. When I heard this, I immediately called TASS, usually helps people from marginalized groups in times of health emergencies.The victim was taken to the hospital and I helped his family by filing a police report and taking care of other legal matters.
Remembering the scenes of abuse is, unfortunately, too easy for the old hunter.
“I helped provide legal aid in another important case for a 14-year-old girl in Bosaso. One day, the girl got a job washing clothes and dishes for a nearby family. She worked for them for six months but was not paid. . When she demanded to be paid her salary, the employer, a woman, poured boiling water on the girl,” she said.
“His whole body was on fire,” he added. “I was the first person outside of his immediate family to get information. I did all the legal aid steps, including supporting him with his hospitalization and reporting to the attorney general. I arrest the person who did it.”
UN and access to justice
According to the United Nations, access to justice is a fundamental principle of the rule of law. Without access to justice, people cannot have their voices heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination, or hold decision makers accountable.
The international body helps develop and update national policies and frameworks for legal aid and supports the capacity-building of state and non-state actors that provide aid services. law in civil, criminal and family matters. It also supports the delivery of legal aid by strengthening the capacities of rights holders, enhancing legal aid programs that empower rights holders, especially poor and marginalized groups, and supporting legal aid clinics and legal aid and public outreach programs.
In Puntland, with the support of the Legal Aid Program, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has supported the Puntland Legal Aid Center (PLAC) since 2007. PLAC helps vulnerable, poor and homeless people in IDP camps and remote areas. of Puntland receive legal aid. They work to protect and promote the rights of women, the elderly, children, prisoners, economic migrants, and people who have been forced to leave their homes. The center is headquartered in Garowe, Puntland, with regional offices in Bosaso and Galkayo.
– UNSOM –