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Human Rights Lawyers Imprisoned in Somaliland

A human rights group says, “The administration of justice is non-existent in Somaliland…as the human rights situation continues to deteriorate there.” The group, Africa Rights, is making the charge following the arrest and three-year imprisonment of four lawyers.

The case centers on a 17-year-old girl, represented by the lawyers, who is accused of terrorism, espionage and conspiracy. The girl says the charges are false and that she was repeatedly raped by police while in custody. She says she only came to Hargeisa to visit with relatives of the vice-president. The guards at the vice-president’s home said she looked and acted suspicious. The girl’s driver was also arrested.

Rakiya Omaar is head of the group Africa Rights and was in the courtroom when the lawyers were arrested. From Hargeisa, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the case.

She says the arrests followed an exchange in the courtroom that was triggered by the prosecutor accusing a human rights worker of making an outburst. She says someone in the courtroom coughed, that is all, and it wasn’t even the man accused by the prosecutor. Ms. Omaar says when the lawyers argued that the prosecutor had no authority to order the man charged, the judged sided with the prosecutor and ordered the lawyers detained. In the meantime, the trial of the girl has been indefinitely suspended.

Africa Rights is asking the Somaliland government to release the lawyers immediately and unconditionally; resume, without delay, the case against the girl and her driver; remove the judge and the prosecutor in the case; and begin an immediate and impartial investigation into the handling of the case by the prosecutor and judge.