LGBT asylum-seekers from Somalia have a strong case against being returned to their home country, says solicitor Benjamin Christman, a legal advocate for immigrants in Northern Ireland.
In a report published Feb. 2, Christman “sets out the evidence of the treatment of gay persons in Somalia. [His report] sustains the claim that gay persons should not be returned to Somalia due to the persecution they would face there due to their sexual orientation, and that they should be granted refugee status.”
Excerpts from the “Report on the Treatment of Gay Persons in Somalia” are below. The full report can be downloaded from Academia.edu after free registration.
In addition to Somalia’s anti-homosexuality law, which provides for up to a three-year prison sentence, the report cites six factors that support asylum claims:
- [The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, which exerts varying degrees of control over parts of Somalia, enforces] a strict interpretation of Shariah Law. Shariah law explicitly outlaws homosexuality. The punishment for those ‘found guilty’ is at a judge’s discretion – and may be punished by death. This puts gay persons at particular risk in the parts of Somalia which are still under Al-Shabaab’s control (this includes much of Southern and Central Somalia). [See disputed details below.]
- The death penalty is used as a punishment for individuals who are ‘found guilty’ of engaging in consensual, same-sex sexual relations in Somalia. [See disputed details below.]
- UN and UK guidance recommends that gay persons are at particular risk with regards to returns to Somalia – they constitute a ‘risk profile’ which may require them needing protection under the Refugee Convention.
- Sexual orientation is a taboo topic in Somalia and gay persons are stigmatised. Gay people cannot be open about their sexuality in Somalia without facing violence, threats to their life and even execution. The risks faced by gay persons in Somalia are compounded by the absence of legal provisions to prevent anti-gay hate crimes or discrimination.
- Somalian prison conditions are inhumane. A gay person who is prosecuted and imprisoned in Somalia will face treatment which falls well below ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] Article 3 standards and United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
- IDP [internally displaced persons] camp conditions in Somalia are also inhumane. The UK Country Information Guidance report for Somalia recognises that persons living in IDP camps in Somalia face a real risk of being exposed to treatment in breach of Article 3 due to the humanitarian conditions there.
The report cites two disputed incidents when the death penalty was allegedly imposed for homosexual activity.
Reported stoning in 2013
The most recent of those disputed incidents occurred in 2013, when it was initially reported on the Facebook page of the Somali Gay Community. That update said that 18-year-old Mohamed Ali Baashi was stoned to death for sodomy by Al Shabaab.
After the accuracy of the Facebook report was challenged and the photos attached to the initial report were shown to be from unrelated incidents, Somali Gay Community responded: “all of us are aware the incident happened,” but also added that “we tried our best to get the bottom line of how did it happened and was it true the allegation, what the judge says about the teenage boy whom they stoned to death? unfortunately we couldn’t succeed.”
Christman’s report includes the following varied accounts of the incident.
European Asylum Support Office, ‘EASO Country of Origin Information report: South and Central Somalia Country overview’ (EASO, 2014):
“On 15 March 2013, Al‑Shabaab stoned to death an 18-year‑old man in Baraawe, Lower Shabelle Region, for engaging in a homosexual act. One Al‑Shabaab official stated that the man had forced a 13-year‑old boy to have sex with him. This information could not be corroborated by other sources.”
Tania Reza and Emily Zell (Muslims for Progressive Values), ‘2015 Written Submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Somalia’ in what may be an account of the same incident:
“In 2013, 18-year old Mohamed Ali Baashi was stoned to death outside of Mogadishu for allegations of homosexuality. His charge of sodomy required stoning to death, as opposed to another man found guilty of murder, because, in the alleged words of the judge, ‘this man did what Muslims should not do and as a result, he will be stoned to death and the one that killed someone will be shot because homosexuality is more punishable in Islam.’ “
Michelle Garcia, ‘Gay Somali Teen Stoned to Death, Village Forced to Watch’ The Advocate (2013)
“A gay teenager in Somalia was reportedly stoned to death as punishment for being gay by Islamic rebels while villagers were forced to watch…. Baashi was charged with sodomy along with another man, who had also been charged with murder… Baashi was stoned to death because of his sexual act.”
Reported execution in 2001
A reported death sentence in 2001 in Somalia also remains in dispute. According to UK Home Office, ‘Somalia Country Assessment’ (2002) Para 5.54:
“In February 2001, it was reported that two women accused of having a lesbian relationship had been sentenced to death by a court in Puntland…”
However, according to BBC News in ‘Somali ‘lesbian sentences’ denied’ (2001):
“Lesbian couple reportedly sentenced to death in Puntland in 2001 (Northern Somalia) – although this sentence was denied by the Puntland authorities.”
Report of a suicide in the late 1980s
Separate from the reports of execution, the Christman report mentions a reported suicide as evidence of the intensity of anti-LGBT feelings in Somalia.
Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Immigration Service, ‘Human rights and security in central and southern Somalia: Joint fact-finding mission by the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Immigration Service’ (2007):
“[In Somalia, a] homosexual would be at clear risk of persecution…
“However, there are no cases to document this or to set precedence, as there has been no one to formally bring charges forward against any individual. It was added that it is difficult to imagine this happening, because the reality of the ‘crime’ is so horrendous that even bringing the matter to the public domain is offensive.
“However, if someone were found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts the consequences would be death. OXFAM/Novib explained that, according to the sources homosexuality is so unacceptable and so taboo, that the most likely scenario would be that any person who is a homosexual or even thought to be, would be killed.
“OXFAM/Novib explained that there is a story that approximately 20 years ago [in 1987], an elder in North West Somalia was informed of the case of a homosexual relationship existing in some small remote village. The elder committed suicide in repulsion or reaction to what he had heard…”
For more information:
- Archive of this blog’s articles mentioning Somalia.