The Somali government has expelled two employees of the European Union (EU) who are accused of illegally taking photos of prisoners at a detention center in Mogadishu. Jacek Jozef Ochman from Poland and Ralf Bernhard Gehlig from Germany were working for the European Union Capability Building Mission in Somalia (EUCAP Somalia) at the time of their expulsion.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision to expel the two came after receiving a request from the Attorney General, Sulayman Mohamed Mohamud, who accused them of “violating the laws and rules of the country” and interfering with the internal affairs of Somalia. The government has asked the EU to remove the two men within 72 hours, who are believed to have left Somalia on May 18.
The expulsions are reportedly related to the detention of 36 fishermen accused of illegal fishing in Somali waters. Most of the fishermen are believed to be Iranian nationals. The Attorney General said in a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the two EU officials visited a detention center on April 30 belonging to the maritime police and took secret photos of prisoners.
He accused Ochman of leading the EU team and Gehlig of taking the photos.
The attorney general said he requested the Foreign Ministry to remove the men from Somalia because they had immunity and cannot be criminally prosecuted. The EU mission in Somalia and the attorney general have not yet responded to media inquiries.
Illegal fishing has been a significant problem in Somalia’s exclusive economic zone since the beginning of the year, with foreign vessels reported to be engaging in illegal fishing. In March, the Somali Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources issued a press release stating that these vessels were fishing without licenses from the Somali government.
The ministry warned that this represented a significant threat to Somalia’s fishing stock, food security, and marine ecology and urged foreign vessels to leave Somali waters.
The expulsion of the two EU employees highlights the ongoing challenges facing Somalia, including the issue of illegal fishing which continues to have significant impacts on the country’s fisheries resources.