GENEVA A report finds significant improvement is being made in human rights in Somalia, but it notes huge challenges to continued progress, compounded by conflict, drought and poverty, remain to be overcome.

The report, which has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, says both natural and man-made factors are to blame for ongoing human rights abuses in Somalia. A major concern is the violation of the right to life. The report says Al-Shabab militants are killing military personnel and civilians through improvised explosives, ambushes, assassinations and other random attacks.

It also blames fighting between clan militias for civilian casualties. And the report notes severe drought conditions in the country are contributing to a dire situation.

Drought, poverty

Bahame Tom Nyanduga is the Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia and author of the report. He says drought has caused widespread displacement as people search for food for themselves and their cattle. He says food shortages have led to increased child malnutrition and death. Growing poverty, he warns, is putting entire communities at risk of exploitation.

"Somali youth have continued to fall victims of human traffickers due to lack of opportunity in the country, and many of them have ended up in slavelike conditions in some transit countries, while trying to cross the treacherous Mediterranean and the Sinai routes to Europe, he said. Recently, human traffickers abandoned tens of Somali youths in the Red Sea off the Yemen coast, tragically leading to loss of life to several of the victims."

Rights of women

Nyanduga also expresses concern about the rights of women. He says they are victimized by harmful traditional practices. He also says sexual and gender-based violence are prevalent and cases of gang rape of girls and women by youths and unknown armed men in uniform continue to be reported and go unpunished.

He also criticizes the lack of freedom of expression and attacks on journalists and other media professionals. The Independent Expert urges the government of Somalia to strengthen its laws and judicial system to better promote and protect human rights.

Source: Voice of America

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