06 FEBRUARY 2014
MOGADISHU: URGENT ACTION NEEDED FOR SOMALI WOMAN DENIED JUSTICE IN COURT AND SUBJECTED TO RAPE AT THE HANDS OF SOMALI POLICE
SIHA has been informed recently of the case of Nuurto Yousuf Omar, a 29-year old mother of six who was subjected to rape on a daily basis during a 30 day imprisonment in Bal’ad, a district located 36 kilometers north of Mogadishu. When Omar visited the Bal’ad Police Station to file a complaint against her husband on grounds of domestic violence, she believed that she would find justice, but instead found herself imprisoned for a month and repeatedly raped by police officers.
Omar has suffered from domestic violence for years at the hands of her husband whom she married in an arranged marriage, often experiencing violence as her children looked on. Incidents have left her incapacitated at times, unable to carry out necessary household duties.
Bravely, Omar refused to let the chain of abuse begin, and eventually reported her husband to the police station in Bal’ad and was told that they will investigate. When her husband found out about the complaint, he filed a complaint against Omar for ‘disobedience to her husband;’ three days later, Omar was arrested.
Omar was taken to court and without a lawyer to argue on her behalf, where she attempted to request a divorce from the judge. Her request was denied and on the 10 October 2014, the court ordered her to live with her husband again. However, she was still not released after the court’s verdict, but was transferred back to the police station where she was detained for a period of 30 days.
Describing this period, Omar told SIHA associates, ‘I was the only female in that police station; there was no section for females, and every night I was raped by one of the police officers.’ During this detention between 12 October 2014 and 12 November 2014, therefore, Omar lived under conditions in blantant defiance of Somali domestic law, represented by the Provisional Constitution adopted in 2012, which has important prohibitions against violence against women, torture, and inhumane treatment (Article 15.2). Additionally, the Constitution mandates the forming, in the face of clear incidents of human right violations occurring within Somalia, of a Human Rights Commission charged with identifying and investigating allegations of human rights violations (Article 41.1-2). Yet, despite extreme violence and human rights violations occurring throughout Somalia, including rampant sexual violence experienced by women like Omar, the Somali Parliament has consistently lagged behind to form a viable Human Rights Commission and to clearly define leadership, roles, and objectives of the Commission.
Omar is now receiving psychosocial support and remains traumatized by the abuse suffered at the hands of both her husband and the Somali police.
Omar’s story is a testament to the daily struggles of Somali women who are unsafe in their private lives and face persecution by the judiciary system as well as authorities mandated to protect them. SIHA notes with concern the pattern emerging in Somalia of rape committed by police officers, most thoroughly documented by police officers is a recent Human Right Watch report entitles, ‘Here Rape Is Normal.’
SIHA is calling for action from the Government of Somalia to prevent violence against women at the hands of the authorities and promote women’s safety and protect their dignity in the private sphere by putting into place more stringent legislation regarding domestic violence.
Article 10.2 and 10.3 of the Constitution reaffirm the principle of dignity, stipulating that ‘human dignity is inviolable and must be protected by all’ and ‘State power must not be exercised in a manner that violates human dignity.’ SIHA requests that those responsible for these flagrant attacks on the dignity of Nuurto Yousuf Omar be punished, and that redress is made to assist Omar’s recovery process after suffering almost unthinkable and regular incidents of rape while in police custody.
SIHA Recommendations to the Government of Somalia:
- Ensure that the Human Rights Commission mandated by the Constitution receives necessary parliamentary support to become an effective body that investigates all cases of brutality and violence and brings perpetrators of human rights violations to relevant judiciary bodies;
- Prosecute the police officers implicated in the rape of Omar and lift any immunity they may have to ensure that their trial is free and fair;
- Investigate the domestic violence complaint filed by Omar, and if substantiated, pursue appropriate prosecution;
- Drop all charges against Omar and provide her with support to assist in her recovery as well as any support necessary to enable her to faily bring accused perpetrators to the judiciary;
- Revise the draft national gender policy to include specific provisions addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a coalition of over 80 women’s civil society organisations from across the Horn countries inclusive of Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Uganda. The organisation works on women’s access to justice, promoting and protecting women’s human rights, activating women’s political participation and supporting economic empowerment.