Dark side of 'new' Somalia: woman jailed for accusing security forces of rape

Outcry as reporter she spoke to is also sentenced to a year for ‘offending institutions’

Nairobi

A young woman who accused Somalia’s security forces of rape has been given a one-year jail sentence for making a false accusation and insulting the government. A freelance journalist who interviewed the alleged victim has also been sentenced to a year in prison, despite never publishing his report.

“We sentence her for offending state institutions by claiming she was raped,” Judge Ahmed Adan Farah said in court. The woman was also charged with inducing false evidence, simulating a criminal offence and making a false accusation.

A key witness called by the prosecution was a midwife who testified the alleged victim had not been raped. The midwife said in court her evidence was based on the fact a pregnancy test she carried out on the alleged victim came back negative.

The case provoked outcry from human rights groups who say the ruling is politically motivated and intended to cover up rampant sexual abuse among the security service and police. “The court’s decision 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.

“The case was built on groundless charges and serious due process violations and should have been thrown out. The government should swiftly move to exonerate and release the defendants.”

The 27-year-old alleged rape victim reported the incident to Hodan police station in the capital, Mogadishu, and was interviewed by journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim on 8 January. The pair were arrested separately two days later and were accused of giving false evidence and conspiring to offend state institutions. The trial opened on Saturday and ended on Tuesday. Three others charged, including the woman’s husband, were acquitted.

Abdiaziz Ibrahim was charged with offending the state and for inducing the woman to give false evidence. He was charged separately under sharia law for entering a woman’s house when her husband was not present.

It convictions come just days after Somalia’s newly elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visited Britain. Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted that he spoke to President Mohamud about the case on his visit, but despite pressure to take a stand President Mohamud, whose election last year was hailed as the start of a new era for Somalia, refused to intervene.

“I don’t have the right to interfere in the judiciary system... [which would] never help the rule of law in Somalia,” he said in a television interview on Sunday. Sources close to the government say the President has is under pressure from senior police not to intervene.

The United Nations estimates more than 1,100 cases of sexual violence were reported in Somalia last year, while admitting that the official figure is likely to be much higher because of the stigma around sex and the pressure on women not to report crimes.

When Mr Mohamud was elected he promised to do more to protect women and announced a crack down on rape. But Fartuun Adan, who runs a shelter for abused women in Somalia, says he has done the opposite.

“We hoped the new government would send a strong message. Unfortunately this is not the message we wanted,” she said.

Human rights groups say the woman’s arrest was a response to a string of news reports about the sharp increase in rape in Mogadishu.  On 6 January, Al Jazeera and the Somali television station Universal TV both carried reports on rape in Mogadishu carried out by men in police uniform. 

A group of Somali journalists staged a protest outside court with their mouths taped shut and their hands tied. The demonstration was quickly shut down by police.

“We are all shocked by the court’s unfair verdict jailing the journalist without due process,” Abdirashid Abdulle, a media activist in Mogadishu said. “[Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim] was supposed to leave the jail today, instead he was unfairly sent back behind bars with out concrete evidence against him.”

The United States officially recognized Somalia as a country this month for the first time in two decades. The move was seen as a sign of hope for Somalia as it struggles to leave behind 21 years of broken government and war. But despite progress, government institutions in Mogadishu remain weak and corruption is rife. Security in Somalia is still provided by 17,000 African Union troops.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence