By Hannah Stewart
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
MOGADISHU, Somalia — A Somali woman who accused state security forces of rape and the journalist who interviewed her were each sentenced to a year in jail on Tuesday. The judges held that Luul Ali Osman, 27, had falsely accused the government. Human rights groups condemned the decision, stating that the government is attempting to conceal rampant sexual abuse of women by the security forces.
Osman was charged on multiple counts. She faced charges for insulting a government body, inducing false evidence, simulating a criminal offense, and asserting a false accusation. Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur was charged with insulting a government body, and inducing the woman to give false evidence.
During the trial, the judges refused to entertain evidence from three witnesses who intended to testify on behalf of Osman and Abdinur. It was reported that the judges largely based their decision upon medical evidence that showed Osman was not raped.
The National Union of Somali Journalists described the trial as a suppression of press freedom. Moreover, it expressed shock that Abdinur was convicted of entering Osman’s home without her husband’s permission, although he was never charged with that crime.
Three others charged in the case, including Osman’s husband, were acquitted Tuesday. Osman’s prison term will be delayed, as she is currently breastfeeding her child. Osman and Abdinur plan to appeal the court’s decision.
“The court’s decision to convict an alleged rape victim and the journalist who interviewed her is a terrible miscarriage of justice, and sends a chilling signal to victims of sexual assault in Somalia,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Somalia 175th out of 179 countries surveyed in its 2012-2013 World Press Freedom Index. This placed Somalia one place ahead of Syria.
In September, the international community applauded Somalia for its first peaceful elections since military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The United States State Department referred to the case as “a litmus test” for the future of Somalia.
Thus far, the international outcry surrounding the case serves as an embarrassment for current Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. After the elections, the international community welcomed Mohamud as the beginning of a new era following decades of Somalian conflict and instability.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Somali Woman Who Alleged Rape Given Jail Term – 5 February 2013
NY Daily News – Somali Court Sentences Rape Victim, Journalist to One-Year in Jail Over “False Accusations” – 5 February 2013
Reuters – Somali Court Sends Alleged Rape Victim and Journalist to Jail – 5 February 2013
The Guardian – Somali Woman is Jailed for a Year After Claiming She Was Raped – 5 February 2013