30 January 2013

Somalia: Somali Authorities Lay Charges Against Alleged Rape Victim and Journalist

press release

Somali authorities should drop politically motivated charges against five people including a journalist and a woman who alleged she was raped by state security forces, Human Rights Watch said today.

The attorney general on January 29, 2013, brought charges of insulting a government body and inducing false evidence, among other charges, in a Mogadishu court. The next hearing is scheduled for February 2.

"Bringing charges against a woman who alleges rape makes a mockery of the new Somali government's priorities," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "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."

The attorney general charged the journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, with insulting a government body and inducing the woman to give false evidence. Under the Somali penal code he faces up to four years in prison for the first charge and two years for the second. The woman was also charged with insulting a government body, along with simulating a criminal offense and making a false accusation, which carry punishments of up to three and six years respectively.

Her husband and a man and woman who helped introduce her to the journalist were charged with assisting the alleged victim to evade investigation, which carries up to a four-year term, and assisting her to secure a profit for the rape allegation, carrying up to a five-year term. The charge sheet indicates that the government believes there was a conspiracy to discredit it and somehow acquire financial gain.

The charges stem from a January 8 interview between Abdiaziz Abdinur and the woman about her rape allegations. Abdiaziz Abdinur did not report the story to any media outlet. On January 10, he was called to report to the Central Investigations Department of the police and when he did, was detained without charge. He has been interrogated repeatedly and his home was searched. The woman retracted her claim after being interrogated for two days by the police without legal counsel; the police then publicly presented her to the media. She was released but her husband was detained in her stead. Credible local sources say it was for insisting that his wife had been raped.

The Somali police have alleged that Abdiaziz Abdinur was involved in an Al Jazeera news report on rape in Mogadishu's displaced persons camps, a claim that Al Jazeera has dismissed publicly.

The journalist, the alleged victim's husband, and the man and woman charged in the case are being held in Mogadishu Central Prison.

Somalia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression and to seek an effective remedy for rights violations. The charges against the five violate the right to seek, receive, and impart information, Human Rights Watch said.

The president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is in Brussels this week for meetings with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, the president of the European Commission, and the EU Council President, as well as EU foreign ministers and members of the European Parliament's development committee.

"The donor countries funding Somalia's police force and criminal justice system need to make clear to the government that they won't be party to injustices," Bekele said.

Human Rights Watch

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