Rapid Reaction Unit was established in 2012 under the support of the government of United Kingdom. The unit started with 50 members was trained by the UK government to counter terrorism. Highly trained, RRU is paramilitary unit of Somaliland Police Force. The unit is under the Birmad (emergency) commandment of the Police force. Birmad commandment comprises of Special Protection Unit (SPU) and RRU. Both of the two units were established under the guidance and support of the international community.
SPU is mandated to protect the foreign personnel of the UN agencies and NGOs and its premises. SPU escorts foreigners travelling outside of Hargeisa. It receives Daily Support Allowance (DSAs) form the institution it provides the protection.
The government of UK also pays 80 USD per month to each member of RRU. There is no publicized written mandate of the Unit and there is no any description of its command structures and functions. The Unit works in secretive manner and the members operate under the direction of its commander but it is not clear whom the commander takes the order from. There is no known or marked office for RRU to address complaints or to contact with. There has never been any report of RRU conducting arrest or search in court warrant.
The unchecked power of RRU and its total sidelining of the national laws are very threat to the core principles in which Somaliland is being established. RRU raids dwelling houses in mostly about 1:00 am to 2:00 am local time. Most of the interviewees whom RRU has raided their homes told Human Rights Centre that RRU attacked them about 1 am to 2 am. RRU use force to enter into the houses by using ladders and heavy machines that break the doors. RRU has black uniform different from the rest of the Police and wear masks when in operation. Their faces cannot be identified.
They use unnecessary force against the residents and search thoroughly the home. “They turn everything down as they are searching needle. They messed the whole home” said one interviewee. They confiscate mobile phones, laptops and any other electronics they find in the home.
RRU does not publicize the number of the people they arrest. They arrest the people in different police stations which makes hard for anyone to find the whereabouts of the detainees. It does not have known separate detention centre.
Interviewees told HRC that in arresting, RRU use force and sometimes beat suspects. The heavy physical constraints, the shocking raid and the subsequent arrest cause trauma to the residents of houses, particularly the children.
RRU are used for political purposes in many occasions. Guleid Dahir Samatar, exdeputy governor of Togdheer region, east of Somaliland, was arrested by RRU who raided his house about 2:00 am local time on 3rd January 2014 at Buro’a town of Togdheer region. RRU entered the dwelling house of Guleid by force in contrary to article 29 of Somaliland Constitution.
Guleid, member of Wadani opposition party, was not formally charged with any offence, but the Police accused him of organizing public protest held in Buroa on 23rd December. He was later released.
On 31st May 2014 around 1:30 am local time, RRU raided the dwelling house of Abdillahi Abokor Osman, Ex Vice-minister of the Ministry of Interior Affairs in charge of security. Children were in the house at the time of the attack.
Abdilahi was arrested without court warrant in contrary to article 25 of the constitution which states that no person may be arrested, searched, or detained,except when caught in red handed (flagrante delicto), or on the issue of a reasoned arrest warrant by a competent judge.
Abdilahi was charged of defaming public officers because of press conference he held in Hargeisa which he claimed that there are cabinet ministers who are members of religious organizations.
In protests that occurred in Hargeisa, pickup cars painted with the name of RRU with men dressed like RRU were part of the Police who dispersed the demonstrators. University of Hargeisa students peacefully protesting against fee
increase were dispersed by the Police including RRU using fire ammunitions in 13rd April 2014. On 28th December 2013, demonstration that occurred in Hargeisa made by people complaining about water shortage resulted the death of 2 demonstrators who were shot by the Police including RRU.
Human Rights Centre documented 100 individuals arrested by RRU since February 2013. Most of the arrests took place in February 2013 when RRU raided houses, business places and other premises. About 80 individuals were arrested in February 2013. Most of them were later released. Human Rights Centre documented two RRU raids in Buroa. All the other raids occurred in Hargeisa where RRU is stationed.
Read the complete Somaliland Human Rights Report in PDF