By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
MOGADISHU, Somalia – On Tuesday, the Somali government prosecuted a woman who accused members of the army of raping her.
Since then, the United Nations and various international human rights groups have demanded that the charges against her be dropped.
Earlier this month, Al-Jazeera English published a story about government soldiers raping internally displaced women in Mogadishu camps. Several days after the publication, the Somali police’s Central Investigation Department (CID) in Mogadishu arrested the reporters involved in writing the story.
2 weeks later, a Mogadishu court charged one of the women interviewed for the Al-Jazeera report. She was charged of insulting the government on the basis of false evidence. According to the court’s decision, she fabricated the rape allegations against the Somali soldiers making her guilty of spreading false accusations. Doing so, she effectively “insulted and lowered the dignity of a National Institution,” said the court.
The woman’s husband was also charged and arrested. He was accused of helping his wife evade investigation and secure a profit for the rape allegation. The government claimed that he and his wife agreed to the Al-Jazeera interview, not only with the intention of discrediting the administration, but also of profiting from it.
After the couple’s arrest, the alleged rape victim recanted her story. She later admitted that all the accusations she made against the Somali security forces were “bogus”.
Her conviction sparked outrage among human rights advocacy groups. They believe that it will deter rape victims from coming forward in spite of recent efforts of trying to empower them.
“Allegations of rape should be met with objective investigations by the proper authorities, not detention for victims who come forward or arrest for journalists who report on such crimes,” insisted Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Fartuun Adan, a volunteer who runs a shelter for abused women in the country, expressed her concern and fear about the consequences of the woman’s prosecution. “Women are now asking me, ‘Who’s going to protect us?’ ” she told local newspapers. “They’re saying, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ ”
According to Daniel Bekele, the Africa director at Human Rights Watch, the case is “politically motivated”. “The police ‘investigation’ in this case was a politically motivated attempt to blame and silence those who report on the pervasive problem of sexual violence by Somali security forces,” he said. “Bringing charges against a woman who alleges rape makes a mockery of the new Somali government’s priorities,” Bekele added.
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Somali journalist charged over rape report – 31 January 2013
Huffington Post – Somalia: Government Charges Woman Who Says She Was Raped By Security Forces – 31 January 2013
All Africa – Somalia: Somali Authorities Lay Charges Against Alleged Rape Victim and Journalist – 30 January 2013
The New York Times – Somalia Moves to Prosecute Woman Who Accused Soldiers of Rape – 30 January 2013