Home / History / History: Reports of Interviews of torture victims in Somaliland – Part 1

History: Reports of Interviews of torture victims in Somaliland – Part 1

These tragic and unfortunate people who have been tutored by their own government it’s a tragic itself. we have to remind ourselves to learn from this tragic and be vigilant this never happens again. It’s dark part of History.

Human Rights in color, The abuse and the detention of innocent must stops.
Human Rights in color, The abuse and the detention of innocent must stops.

REPORTS OF INTERVIEWS AND MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS OF TORTURE VICTIMS FROM SOMALIA CONDUCTED BY DOCTORS ON BEHALF-OF THE CANADIAN CENTER FOR THE INVESTIGATION AND PREVENTION OF TORTURE

Report by Dr Weridall Block

Postscript, 11 April 1988

2. Report by Dr Philip P Berger, 7 December 1987

3. Report by Dr Donald E Payne, 10 November 1987
APPENDIX I

Report by Dr Weridall Block,18 November 1987 Plus Postscript

In this report I will summarize descriptions AND evidence of torture and oppression in Somalia. They are based on interviews and physical examinations of 13 Somali refugees I conducted at the West Central Community Health Centre in Toronto, Canada, between November, 1986 and October of 1987 on behalf of the Canadian Centre for the Investigation and Prevention of Torture Most of these sessions were one-and-a–half to two hours long, and were the basis for medical legal reports prepared for” Refugee hearings.

An interpreter was required for only one interview, the others speaking adequate English on their own. The refugees I saw were all men. between the ages of 18 and 38 (the youngest was only 12 when the incidents he related to me had occurred). Nine of them had at Ieast a grade 12 education and most were the sons of parents who owned small businesses. It is my belief that the men I saw were exceptionally fortunate, and were able to leave Somalia because they were young male and had the education and financial connections which enabled them to get here.

The men I interviewed were detained in Somalia for a number of presumed reasons ,ranging from fund raising for the SNM to students taking part in protests, to verbal criticism of government policies, to simply being a relative of a member of an opposition organization or being suspected of writing anti government graffiti. Every man I interviewed denied ever being formally charged on any count none of them were ever brought to trial; and none of them ever had access to a lawyer throughout the experiences they described, their detentions varying in length from a week for a 14-year old to almost three-and-a-half years for a 27-year-old student protester.

Some of these men were detained in military camps, but almost all of them were imprisoned in National Security Service centres. Some of them described being put in small cells with 10 to 20 other inmates, while some were held in solitary confinement in cell so smalI they could not stand straight up or lie straight out in. The usual food was some rice or bread with weak tea once or twice a day, and sometimes nothing at all . All of the men I questioned lost weight while incarcerated (as much as .18 kilograms). Drinking water was rarely readily available.

Many of the cells were completely dark, so that a sense of time was completely lost (one man detained for nine months thought three or four years had passed). Sometimes there would be a pail for a toilet, or access to a toilet at specific times or on request, but sometimes there was no facility at alI, and the men would end up sleeping on floors filthy with their own urine and feces.

There were often biting insects, poor ventilation, and hot temperatures. Some men were given blankets to sleep with, but all slept on the floors of their cells. While in detention these men were all interrogated, assaulted, and tortured. Aside from the inhuman conditions described above, there were regular, brutal beatings with kicks, punches, rifle butts, whips, sticks and clubs all described. The beatings might be haphazard in some cases, while in others specific parts of the body, for instance the knees or the soles of the feet, would be persistently beaten. Sometimes they would be blind folded for these beatings; one man described being put inside a large bag and beaten. Two men described being beaten while tied for one or two hours in what they called “Mig” (chest to floor, arms and legs pulled back so that wrists are tied to ankles) or “Vig” (wrists tied to ankles and ulterior) positions, and one was hung upside down, beaten, and left hanging until he lost consciousness These beatings would often occur daily or every other day for weeks or months a few men described transfers to areas where beatings occurred perhaps twice a week as being a great change for, the better.

Three men described burns,from cigarettes or the white-hot tip of an electrical appliance- One man received electric shocks to his legs, while another was forced to watch on their, prisoner being shocked. Three were cut by knives or bayonets. Five men described being tied and repeatedly submerged or held under water until they lost consciousness – sometimes they would then be interrogated as they were coming to. Most of these men were sure they were going to die, and were sure that some of- their co-prisoners did die, as these submerging would usually take place at night in the ocean outside Mogadishu and none would notice if somebody drowned (a 14 year-old in Hargeisa simply had his head repeatedly forced under water in a pail). The demoralization and threat to life was a constant reality, but sometimes there would be direct verbal threats, a pistol held to the head, and so on.

These centres were often described in Hargeisa, in the north, and Mogadishu, the national capital in the south, although smaller centres were named as well. An NSS centre called Godka (“The Hole”) in Mogadishu seemed particularly notorious.

The incidents described to me spanned the period between August 1977 and August 1986. Most of these men continued to complain of a variety of somatic and psychological problems typical of torture victims. Somatic ally these included spells of dizziness, headaches, stomach pains, back pains, aching eyes. knee pains, coughing, and choking feelings. Psychologically there were frequent complaints of nightmares, poor sleep, poor- appetite, difficulties with short term memory and concentration, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Some of these symptoms might be expected in anyone separated from their family, home and culture, but the degree of the symptoms suggested much greater trauma. The most common visible, physical scars were those of abrasions and lacerations, entirely consistent with whippings, kicks, bayonet cuts, and the other methods of beatings described. They were located on faces, chests, backs, abdomens, arms, legs, and feet. Many of the abrasions had the hypo pigmented, thickened scarring which suggests former infection, and I was told that in the prisons almost everyone had chronically draining wounds (there was no medical care). Some of the ankle abrasion scars were consistent with rope burns resulting from long periods of bondage.

Three of the men had burn scars, quite easily distinguishable from the burn scars many of them had from traditional medical or ceremonial rites. In all of these interviews and examinations, the scars and complaints I found were consistent with the history of detention and torture I was given. It was my impression that the men related to me quite frankly and directly, albeit with some anxiety as it obviously brought up painful memories, and their legal status in Canada would depend to some extent on my report.

There is no doubt in my mind that detention without trial, under horrendous conditions and accompanied by brutal torture, exists as a daily reality in Somalia. Further, it seems to be carried out as a means of stamping out political opposition and criticism. Unless something drastic has happened in Somalia since 1986, and I am not aware that it has, these kinds of atrocities are continuing unabated at the present. Again I would like to emphasize my impression that I saw the Lucky men – men who had survived, men who could get out of the country. Without my asking for the information, these men described two brothers and one father who had “disappeared”; one father and one brother dead in prison; one other father dying shortly after release from prison, two relatives executed after coup attempts and two military colleagues executed or suspicion of conspiring; two fellow-students and two fathers killed with trail It is my earnest hope that the information in this report will somehow contribute to a renewal of basic human rights in Somalia.

Postscript, 11 April 1988

Since writing the report of November 1987, I have interviewed and examined another six victims of torture in Somalia. They ranged in age from 19 to 45 the youngest being only 14 when he was first detained. Five were male, one female. They all had at least some secondary school education, some had post secondary.

Their detentions ranged from two to seven months. except for one detention of six years. They took place between 1979 and 1985. Imprisonments in Godka Mandera, and other NNS centers were described. Five were held in cells by them selves, as smalI as roughly two by one and-a-half meters in size. Food was always poor, toilets were not in the cells, there were no beds, and lighting and ventilation poor.

These six people were never tried, they had no recourse to lawyers or ever, to visits from their families. During their detentions they were subjected to frequent beatings (Punches, kicks, clubs). The 14-year-oId was not beaten until he was detained again a few years later. the man who was detained for six years was not beaten either he was simply kept at his cell for, six years, never stepping out, noone ever coming in. Four were burned with cigarettes or other hot objects.

Three described being repeatedly Submerged in water.Several were tied in contorted positions while they were beaten (for example, the ” Mi g ” ,in which the person lies on his chest, wrists tied behind his back and ankles pulled back to be tied under the wrists). Two described being put in tiny cells for extended periods of time – these were so small the person could not sit down or change position. The woman told me that rape was frequently attempted. The youngest man told me he was forced to watch electric shock torture, or pliers being used to squeeze a prisoner’s testicles. On examination I saw the scars of burns, abrasions, lacerations, consistent with what I had been told. Three had chipped or missing teeth.

2. Report by Dr Philip P Berger, 7 December 1987

Between April 1986 and September 1987 I interviewed and examined in detail four Somali refugee applicants (three men and one woman). They ranged from age 22 to 37 years when examined and were detained between 1978 to 1986. The three men were detained respectively for- sever months’ total over two detentions, several days during one detention and six years during one detention. -The woman was detained twice for a total five weeks The ages of the men when first detained were 14 years, 13 years and 30 years respectively, and of the woman, 17 years.

The conditions of imprisonment were uniform for the 14 year-old male, 30 year-old male and 17 year-old woman (age of detention) they were kept in cells (described as “closets”) that were too smalI to stretch out or stand up in. The cells were cold and unclean They were usually fed one meal of cereal or rice and water each day.

The male detained at 13 years was left unconscious after his beatings and has no memory of his detention conditions. All four suffered physical abuse the woman was gang raped several times. She reported being beaten with rifle butts, sticks and fists. She had hot liquid and cold water poured on her. She was forced to eat noodles until she vomited. She was burned with hot sticks, had hot pepper, placed in her eyes and in her vagina. She had a finger lacerated with a wire Cutter. She exhibited extensive non-specific scarring on aII four extremities (particularly her legs), her, face and her left breast. Although it was not possible to relate these to a specific method of torture, the scars were. consistent and compatible with her history- Some were suggestive of cuts and deep wounds. The first man stated that he was repeatedly burned with cigarettes to his back, chest, abdomen and arms. He exhibited over 100 one–centimeter mostly circular pigmented scars in these areas, which were strongly suggestive of previous cigarette burns. These scars are similar to cigarette burn scars that I have observed in dozens of other cases from all over” the world.

The second man stated he was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets in his chest, back and buttocks. He says he was hung by his leg from a tree kicked and slapped and burned with cigarettes. He Exhibited severe and extensive scarring with over 50 scars over all parts of his body Most notable were identical shaped scars on chest. These were in the form of crosses with each line of the cross ranging from five to seven centimeters and the scars were strongly suggestive of injury with a sharp object occurring in a similar fashion to different areas of his body. In over 10 years of examining over 200 torture victims I have never observed such dramatic signs of previous injury. (In fact amongst my regular patients I have never observed these types of findings). He also exhibited four symmetrically located circular one-centrimetre scars on his face which were strongly suggestive of previous cigarette burns.

The third man stated he was repeatedly beaten with wood and fists, stabbed with a bayonet and hung upside down in the hot sun for up to one hour. His ankles were tightly cuffed in an inversion position, cutting the medial aspect of the ankles. He exhibited symmetrical scarring of the medial aspects of both ankles suggestive of bilateral similar trauma to these areas. This was consistent with the history of the ankles being tightly cuffed. He had a large thick scar corresponding to the area of the alleged bayonet wound.

All four provided detailed histories of physical abuse. They all exhibited non-specific signs of torture and the first and third exhibited specific signs of torture.

3. Report by Dr Donald E Payne, 10 November 1987

During 1986 and 1987 1 performed psychiatric assessments on 10 refugee claimants from Somalia who alleged that hey were detained and tortured in Somalia. They consisted of nine men and one woman. who were aged 20 to 34 with an average age of 26.7 years. They reported having been detained after engaging in peaceful protests, such is distributing leaflets, or because of their association with other people who had been detained. Seven of the detainees reported that they felt they were detained because of their membership in a clan which was being persecuted.

All the detainees reported being held in very poor conditions which were unhygienic and being fed poorly. Cells were typically very small with no light or very limited daylight with floors of dirt or dirty concrete and very limited sanitary facilities. Seven of the cases reported having been held in solitary confinement and this was usually associated with a sensory deprivation. They received physical torture which was rough and brutal and it appears that little effort was made to hide the fact that the victims had been tortured. They were punched, kicked and hit with sticks, whips and rifles. Three reported having had their heads submerged in water and two suffered hot water burns. Five were forced into awkward, painful and humiliating positions or were suspended.

Almost all reported threats to their lives and found this quite terrifying as it appeared that their death could result from a whim of the guards rather than requiring any order from a higher authority. No medical care was provided at their place of detention for medical illnesses or injuries resulting from their torture. One case was transferred to military hospital. all the cases seen showed evidence of a post traumatic stress disorder.

Printed with permission from
Amnesty International Publications
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 8DJ
United Kingdom

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Mohamed Ghalib Musa is the founder of Somaliland Net and the chief editor. It's a human thing to work to together to achieve a common Goal and objectives, Let us work together and we will succeed.

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