5 February 2013

Somalia: Ban Deeply Disappointed After Alleged Somali Rape Victim, Reporter Receive Jail Sentences

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced his deep disappointment over the one-year sentences handed down today in Mogadishu against a woman who alleged she was raped by members of the Somali security forces and a journalist who interviewed her.

"The Secretary-General urges the Government of Somalia to ensure that all allegations of sexual violence are investigated fully and perpetrators are brought to justice," his spokesperson said in a statement.

"Above all, it is essential that the rights of the alleged victim and the journalist to a fair and transparent judicial process, including the right of appeal, are fully respected," he added.

Last month, Somali authorities arrested the woman - who claimed she was raped in September by armed men in government uniforms while living in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) - and the journalist who interviewed her, as well as the person who introduced them. Two other individuals have also been charged in connection with the case.

The journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, was charged for offending the honour of a State institution and for filing a false report in spite of never having published his interview, while the alleged victim was charged for offending the honour of a State institution.

"The United Nations has repeatedly expressed alarm over reports of pervasive sexual violence in IDP camps in and around Mogadishu," said the statement. "These crimes are underreported because of risks to victims, witnesses and family members, as well as of intense stigmatization. It takes extraordinary courage for survivors to come forward."

It added that Somalia is emerging from a long and difficult period of instability, with representative institutions and a new Government that has made a commendable commitment to uphold human rights and the rule of law for all.

"This journey must begin with a solid foundation based on respect for human rights, freedom of expression and fair judicial process."

The UN Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) as well as the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, had spoken out in recent weeks about the case, urging that the alleged crimes be investigated and that a fair judicial process be ensured.

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