Nairobi — The Somali authorities should release a journalist and two other people linked to a woman who alleged being raped by state security forces. Police in Mogadishu have detained freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim without charge for prolonged interrogations since January 10, 2013.
"The Somali police are detaining a journalist and harassing a woman who says she was raped, while letting those accused of rape run free," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The new Somali government needs to ensure that the police are part of the solution to rampant abuses by the security forces, not part of the problem."
On January 10, the Somali police's Central Investigation Department (CID) in Mogadishu detained a woman who said that she was raped by government forces a few months earlier, along with a female acquaintance who had put her in contact with journalists. Human Rights Watch has not been able to investigate the rape claim. During interrogations, the head of CID, Gen. Abdullahi HassanBarisse, allegedly compelled the woman to hand over the telephone numbers of journalists who had interviewed her.
The police, using the woman's cell phone, called Abdiaziz Abdinur, who has worked with Dalsan Radio and Badri Media Productions, and had recently interviewed the alleged victim, and told him to come to their offices. He complied on January 10 and has been detained ever since. Police searched his home, though it is not clear if they had a search warrant.
The woman was released on the evening on January 11 after her husband went to the police station and was detained in her place, according to credible local sources. The female acquaintance also remains detained.
These events appear linked to an Al Jazeera article, published on January 6, which described rampant rape in camps for internally displaced people in Mogadishu. According to local journalists, the CID's interrogation of Abdiaziz Abdinur apparently focused on his alleged involvement in the production of this article. Abdiaziz Abdinur does not work with Al Jazeera and interviewed the woman two days after the article was published.
The CID has also questioned several other Somali journalists, including the Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent, Omar Faruk, and radio journalist Abdiaziz Mohamed Dirie, who was detained for one night in the National Security Agency facilities. According to credible local and international sources in Mogadishu, the police on January 11 also interrogated a staff member of a women's rights organization who had assisted the alleged rape survivor.
In November 2012, the new Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, publicly committed to holding abusive state security forces to account, including those responsible for rape. He said that the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment for rape; Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances as an inherently inhumane and irreversible act.
The new government should hold to account security forces responsible for rape and other serious abuses but also police who violate the rights of crime victims and journalists reporting on crime. International donors, particularly those supporting the Somali police, should publicly and privately raise serious concerns about this case.
"Silencing rape victims and journalists will not end sexual violence, but just reinforce Somalia's climate of impunity," said Bekele. "President Hassan Sheikh should honor his commitment by making sure the police handling of this case doesn't discourage journalists from reporting government abuses or victims from seeking justice."