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ILO condemns trade union rights violations in Somalia

18 November 2015

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s committee on freedom of association report making a landmark ruling against the federal government of Somalia. The ILO's intervention follows a complaint made jointly by the IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Somalian Journalists (NUSOJ) and the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and this action was supported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The ILO governing body, at its 325th session on 11 November 2015, endorsed the findings of the report that accepted the allegations made by the complainants. The report concluded that there were gross violations of the right to freedom of association, interference in internal union affairs, arbitrary interrogations and travel restrictions placed on union leaders by government officials.

Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary general, said:

"This is a wonderful victory for NUSOJ and the entire Somali labour movement.
"This ILO report vindicates our union in that the world tripartite body did discover that there was a serious trade union and human rights violations in Somalia, well documented with evidence and this is quite significant."

The IFJ backed its member union and welcomed the report. This is the first time an IFJ member union has submitted a compaint against a government to the ILO and won its case. According to NUSOJ, it is also the first time that Somalia has been taken to the ILO committee on freedom of association and ILO governing body since the country joined the ILO in 1960.

Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, said:

"We join our affiliate in welcoming this report that recognises the dramatic attacks that our union and its leaders have suffered at the hand of the country’s government, including attempt by the ministry of the information to destabilise our union, to impose its own puppets as its leaders and to pursue a campaign of intimidation against NUSOJ leaders including its legitimate secretary general, Omar Faruk Osman.
"We applaud the ILO for urging the Somali government to take the necessary measures to protect union leaders and we urge Somali authorities to investigate the perpetrators of such illegal acts, take appropriate action and implement ILO recommendations."

One of the most damning findings was the acknowledgement by the government in their response to the ILO that "its officials have transgressed their duties, infringed freedom of association and assembly, and interfered with the internal trade union activities of the NUSOJ and FESTU, …. obstructing trade union work and independency, in particular during the NUSOJ conference of November 2014" on the international day against impunity.

The ILO also criticised the minister of labour’s decision to "withdraw recognition of the union leaders without providing any information on the legal action that was taken to legitimise such a critical decision which should only be made by a judicial body."

Another finding by the ILO puts an end to the allegation made by the ministry of information in a defamatory statement in January 2012 against NUSOJ leader Omar Faruk Osman that falsely alleging mismanagement of funds. The ILO reprimanded the ministry of information for putting out such a release saying "the committee regrets that the government has not replied to this allegation, expresses its deep concern at the issuance of this press statement without following due process to bring the matters before the judiciary and trusts that the government will refrain from such acts in the future."

In its final recommendations, the ILO urged the government of Somalia "to refrain from any further interference in the unions registered in Somalia with particular reference to the NUSOJ and FESTU, observe the right of the union to administer its own affairs and activities without let or hindrance and in line with the principles of freedom of association and democracy, ensure that the elected leaders of the union are free to exercise the mandate given to them by their members and to that extent enjoy the recognition of the government as a social partner."

It further requested the government to review promptly the Somali labour code in consultation with the freely elected social partners with a view to ensuring its full conformity with ILO conventions numbers 87 and 98.

Finally the ILO governing body summoned the government to come before the committee at its next session in March 2016 to account for the steps it has taken to implement the recommendations.

Download the ILO report.

Tags: , somalia, national union of somali journalists, ifj, ilo, un, freedom of association, trade union rights, trade union freedom, ituc, solidarity, government