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Church Court Chambers’ Michael Polak, who is instructed by the family of the journalist Kilwe Farah and is acting with the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) has submitted a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the “ACHPR”). The complaint concerns the breach of journalistic rights, as Kilwe Farah has has been unlawfully detained and subjected to criminal proceedings simply because of his media activities.
A day after Kilwe reported on anti-inflation rate protests in Garowe on 27 January 2020, Kilwe was unlawfully detained from a hotel in Garowe town centre. He was then held at an undisclosed PISA (security services) detention centre without access to a lawyer or his family for 16 days where he was subjected to torture. On 11 January 2021, after 16 days held incommunicado in unlawful detention Kilwe was transferred to Garowe Central Prison where he was charged with attempted murder despite the authorities never having identified anyone who he was supposed to have attempted to murder.
These charges have since changed. During the court hearing on Saturday 27 February 2021, before the first instance Military Court the military prosecutor put forward five charges: Instigation of Delinquency; Instigation to Disobey Laws; Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated, or Tendentious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order; Offence against the Authorities by means of Damaging Posters; and Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt.
On 4 March 2021, despite no evidence being presented before the Court, the Court found Kilwe guilty of these offences and sentenced him to three months imprisonment in what looked like an attempt to save face for the authorities. This should have resulted in Kilwe being released on Saturday 6 March 2021 however Kilwe’s legal team have found out that the Prosecution are frustrating Kilwe’s release by appealing against the sentence that he was given. It is unclear how long this will take however Kilwe’s family are desperate to have him home after his terrible ordeal.
Michael Polak, who submitted the communication to the African Commission, stated that:
‘What has happened to Kilwe is a cautionary tale about the treatment of journalists by oppressive regimes around the world when there are balances on their power.
The authorities have disappeared Kilwe, held him in illegal detention, charged him with the spurious offence of attempted murder, when the authorities were unable to identify anyone who he attempted to murder, then changed the charges to those clearly related to his work as a journalist. Then the Court, despite there being no evidence against Kilwe on these new charges have found him guilty in order to save face for the authorities.
We hope that the international submission to the African Commission will shine a spotlight on the repression of journalists such as Kilwe and that shining the spotlight on media freedom in Somalia will improve conditions for the very brave journalists in Somalia who play an important role informing the Somalian people of what is happening in their country.”
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) Secretary General, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin said,
“The Somali Journalists Syndicate is very pleased to have Michael Polak working with us on Kilwe’s case as this is an egregious example of the repression frequently faced by our brave members across Somalia.
As well as making submissions to the international bodies specially in relation to Kilwe’s case he has also made submission to the United Nations’ bodies based on the evidence in our extensive reports about the widespread attacks on journalists in Somalia including killings, arbitrary detention, the seizure of cameras and other equipment, and the banning of newspapers and broadcast media. We hope that the international community will finally stand up for press freedom in Somalia which is essential for the development of the country and stability in the region.’
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