Expected Council Action
In October, the Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Philippe Kridelka (Belgium), will deliver his 120-day briefing to the Council, most likely in an open videoconference (VTC). Elements of the sanctions regime will expire on 15 November, including the partial lifting of some sanctions, and the mandate of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts expires on 15 December.
Key Recent Developments
The 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee is the oldest sanctions committee currently in operation. The Council imposed a comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia on 23 January 1992 with the adoption of resolution 733 and established a sanctions committee through resolution 751 adopted on 24 April 1992. Since then, the regime has undergone many updates and changes. While the authorisation of the sanctions regime remains open-ended, there are a few elements that must be renewed each year. On 15 November 2019, the Council adopted resolution 2498, renewing for one year the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces, the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports, and humanitarian exemptions to the regime. The resolution also renewed the mandate of the Somalia Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 15 December 2020.
The latest periodic briefing by the chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee took place on 9 June, when its chair, then Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, briefed Council members in an open VTC on the committee’s activities from 28 February to 9 June. His briefing emphasised that armed terrorist group Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat to regional peace and security and is responsible for many attacks against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law. He highlighted Al-Shabaab’s increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Somalia and their devastating effect, as relayed to the committee in a briefing by the UN Mine Action Service on 29 April.
As of the June briefing, the committee was considering six recommendations from the panel’s mid-term update pertaining to threats to peace and security in Somalia, particularly Al-Shabaab’s military and financial capabilities; the implementation of the arms embargo through further improvements in weapons and ammunition management; and international humanitarian law issues, including strengthening the protection of civilians. In more positive news, there seems to have been an improvement in the relationship between the Panel of Experts and the government of Somalia, which in 2019 refused to allow the panel to conduct visits to the country. While members of the panel have also been unable to visit Somalia this year, that has been due to COVID-19, and meanwhile, the panel seems to have had extensive video calls with stakeholders, including the government.
The committee’s concern about increased deadly attacks by Al-Shabaab is reflected in recent events. On 16 August, Al-Shabaab orchestrated an attack on a popular beach hotel in Mogadishu. It began with a car bomb exploding, after which terrorists rushed into the hotel, resulting in a four-hour siege. Sixteen people were killed and 18 were injured, while Somali special forces rescued more than 200. On 7 September, at least three Somali soldiers were killed, and several individuals were injured, including one US service member, in a car bomb blast claimed by Al-Shabaab that targeted a military base outside Kismayo. On 8 September, Al-Shabaab forces attacked the government-controlled city of Bal’ad, in Middle Shabelle region. Al-Shabaab reportedly suffered serious casualties.
Committee members continue to meet under the “informal informal” format via VTC (closed in this case), due to COVID-19 protocols put in place by the UN. On 14 September, the committee held a VTC to discuss the final Panel of Experts report. The panel’s report focused particularly on the financing of Al-Shabaab, finding that a large part of the group’s income comes from a significant and sophisticated taxation scheme. The taxation scheme has allowed Al-Shabaab to create a parallel state in much of Somalia, and Al-Shabaab has been more than able to finance its operations. The report seemed to make the point that Al-Shabaab must be defeated not only militarily but also financially.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Addressing the Human Rights Council (HRC) at the opening of its 45th session on 14 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was alarmed by an increase in reports of sexual violence against women, girls and boys. She called on the Somali authorities to swiftly adopt the Sexual Offenses Bill that was approved by the Somali Cabinet two years ago. She previously made this call in a 10 August statement when she also emphasised that the draft Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Law “risks legitimizing child marriage” and should be prevented from becoming law, as it would also represent “a serious step backwards for the rights of victims of sexual violence in Somalia”.
The HRC was also scheduled to consider during its 45th session the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Isha Dyfan (A/HRC/45/52).
Key Issues and Options
Council members are extremely concerned about the upsurge in Al-Shabaab attacks. They may consider whether to revise the partial lifting of some sanctions in November to decrease Al-Shabaab’s ability to make IEDs. This could also mean an increased focus on implementation of the IED components ban in resolution 2498.
The October meeting will mark the first time the new Permanent Representative of Belgium, Philippe Kridelka, will address the Council in his capacity as chair of the committee.
This meeting may provide a preview of where things stand one month before the renewal of the partial lifting of parts of the sanctions mandate and the renewals of the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports and of the Panel of Experts’ mandate. During the adoption of resolution 2498 on 15 November 2019, China, Equatorial Guinea and Russia abstained. In their statements after the vote, China and Russia reiterated their belief that the relationship between Djibouti and Eritrea is a bilateral one that does not merit mention in a Council resolution. (Until 2018, sanctions on Eritrea, related to its dispute with Djibouti, were part of the Somalia sanctions regime.) China and Rusia furthermore did not approve of the inclusion of some human rights language, saying that the Human Rights Council would be a more appropriate venue. Equatorial Guinea also said that issues unrelated to Somalia should not be covered in the resolution. Such differences are likely to remain in 2020. There may also be some differences on the exemptions in the arms embargo for the Somalia national forces in order to combat Al-Shabaab.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia. Ambassador Philippe Kridelka (Belgium) chairs the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 November 2019S/RES/2498||This extended various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2020.|
|Security Council Letters|
|11 June 2020S/2020/529||This was a copy of the 9 June briefing provided by Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992), concerning Somalia.|