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February 05, 2013

Somalia Convicts Alleged Rape Victim, Reporter

by Gabe Joselow

A Somalia court has convicted a woman who said she was raped by state security forces and the reporter who allegedly interviewed her.

Judge Ahmed Adan Fareh read the guilty verdict against the 27-year-old mother who reported being attacked months ago while living in a displaced people's camp.

Lul Ali Osman was sentenced to one year in prison, after the judge said she was unable to show any evidence proving she had been raped. The judge said she should begin serving her time in a couple of years, when she is no longer breastfeeding her infant child.

Abdiaziz Abdinur, a journalist who allegedly interviewed the woman, was also sentenced to a year in prison.

Both had been accused of fabricating the story in an attempt to make money, and were charged with insulting the country's honor.

Defense lawyers have announced plans to appeal. 

Three other people charged in the case, including the woman's husband, were released.

Human Rights Watch Africa Director Daniel Bekele said in a statement the court's decision “sends a chilling signal to victims of sexual assault in Somalia.”  

He said the case was built on “groundless charges” and should have been thrown out.

Tom Rhodes, with the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he was horrified by the verdict.

"It sends a terrible message to the press of Somalia, and our colleagues are very worried," Rhodes said. "Basically it has come to the point where if you interview any official on a critical subject, you may be very well charged with criticizing the integrity of the state and get jail time for it.”

According to Rhodes, there was no evidence Abdinur published anything about the alleged rape victim or that he had ever interviewed her.

Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon announced that a new Human Rights Task Force, launched Tuesday, will investigate human-rights abuses, in particular crimes against women and journalists.

Without directly referencing the controversial court case, he said the task force will investigate an “ongoing case in Mogadishu” to review whether due process had been followed.