News / Africa

Rights Group Demands Somali Journalist's Release

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— Human Rights Watch is demanding the release of a journalist arrested in Somalia after interviewing a woman who was allegedly raped by state security forces.  The rights group is raising concerns about the treatment of victims of sexual violence in Somalia.

Human Rights Watch says Somali police are holding freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who was arrested Thursday, and two other people linked to the alleged rape victim.

The woman, who said she was raped by government forces several months ago, was also detained by the Central Investigation Department (CID), but her husband is now being held in jail in her place.  A female acquaintance who had put her in contact with the journalist is also being held.

HRW has criticized Somali police for detaining a journalist and harassing a woman who says she was raped, instead of the rape suspects.

An Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says police have blocked the detained journalist from receiving legal assistance.

“We have heard that today the journalist Abdiaziz Abdinoor Ibrahim remains in detention in CID [and)]has not been charged.  Access to his lawyers has at times been denied, notably yesterday [Sunday]," said the researcher. "We are particularly concerned about this case, not only given the fact an alleged victim of rape has been questioned, has been detained on occasion, although currently it is her husband who is in detention in her place."

National Union of Somali Journalists Secretary-General Mohamed Ibrahim visited the journalist in his jail cell.  He says police have complicated the issue because some of their colleagues are in the spotlight over this crime.

“This case, it seems, it is getting a little bit complicated, but the Union is doing its best to support the journalist through the legal system and we believe the journalist will get his freedom sooner or later, but it needs a lot of struggle,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim also said the reporter’s health is deteriorating and police have said no one can see him until the investigation is over.

The Human Rights Watch researcher says their organization is concerned the impact this case will have on reporting on abuses committed by the government forces.   

“The question of sexual violence and notably sexual violence by government forces is a concern in Mogadishu.  It deserves to be reported on and it has to be reported on," the researcher added. "[The] president has actually publicly stated that this would no longer be tolerated so it is obviously an issue, and yet now there is intimidation not only of potential victims who might have come forward to report on it, but also journalists who are trying to look into what is a very serious issue.”

For now, the Washington-based organization is calling for the Somali government to immediately release the journalist and others who were detained last week.

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