October 5, 2020
Col. Guled Ahmed
Criminal Investigation Division
Somali Police Force
Re: Preliminary Findings and Questions into Gololey Investigations
I am writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch to share the preliminary findings of our research into the abductions and killings of eight health workers, seven of whom were employed by the nongovernmental organization Zamzam Foundation, in the village of Gololey in Balcad District in Middle Shabelle region on May 27-28, 2020, and to request your response to several questions.
Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organization that documents human rights abuses by governments and non-state armed groups in more than 90 countries around the world. For several decades, we have conducted research and carried out advocacy on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all parties to the conflict in Somalia.
Between June and September, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 13 witnesses to the abductions in Gololey village and relatives of the victims as well as 5 journalists and humanitarian workers with knowledge of the area.
Our research found that on May 27, five masked gunmen – three dressed in Somali military uniforms, one in what witnesses believed was a police uniform, and another in civilian dress – arrived at the Zamzam clinic in Gololey village at around 1:30 p.m. The gunmen rounded up the seven male medical staff present at the clinic and the local pharmacist. After confiscating the phones of female staff present at the clinic and threatening them, the gunmen marched the eight men, blindfolded, away from the clinic. The assailants told the female staff that they were taking their male colleagues off for “questioning.”
Residents of the village and elders told Human Rights Watch they contacted government officials on May 27 and again in the morning of May 28 without receiving any information on the whereabouts of the eight men. On the afternoon of May 28, the bodies of the eight men were found outside the village, bullet ridden – notably with bullet wounds to the head. Witnesses said their hands were tied behind their backs.
Witnesses described a slow response by the security forces, with government forces and officials only arriving in Gololey village on May 29, the day after the bodies were found. Multiple witnesses and residents told Human Rights Watch that they thought the incident may be linked to a May 26 attack on a government convoy outside the village in which at least seven soldiers died.
We welcome both the Federal government’s and the Hirshabelle authorities’ commitment to hold those responsible for these serious abuses to account, including through the initiation of an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department and the establishment of a high-level investigation committee by the Hirshabelle president.
Relatives and witnesses said that the Criminal Investigation Division in Mogadishu initiated an investigation into the incident in its immediate aftermath, interviewing a number of witnesses in Mogadishu; however, all interviewees who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that they have not been given any feedback on the status of the investigation nor the findings.
Human Rights Watch strives to reflect all perspectives in our research and publications. We would therefore appreciate your response in writing by October 19 to the following questions to ensure your views are reflected in our reporting:
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1) What is the status of your investigation into the Gololey abductions and killings?
2) Has anyone, including civilian and military officials and soldiers, been disciplined or arrested in connection with the abductions and killings and the government response to the incident? If so, how many, and on what measures or charges? Has anyone appeared before court in conjunction with the incident?
3) Do you intend to make the findings of the investigation public?
4) We understand the Hirshabelle authorities established a committee to investigate the killings. How are you coordinating with this committee?
5) We were informed that a local minibus driver was initially detained. Has this person been released or charged?
6) Have federal military prosecutors been involved in the investigation?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.