On the 21st November 2013, a 19 year old rape survivor and the journalist to whom she has spoken, have been arrested on the basis of fabricating false stories. The survivor has claimed that she was raped at gunpoint by two government affiliated journalists, working for Radio Mogadishu in August 2013, however following failed attempts to address the issue with the station manager at Radio Mogadishu, she spoke with Radio Shabelle in a bid to create public pressure for justice.
The incident took place in August 2013 where the victim was held at gun point and repeatedly raped during the night by the two journalists. Her interview with Radio Shabelle was aired on the 18th November and the victim, the Radio Shabelle journalist, Mohamed Bashir Hashi and the Radio Shabelle station manager Abdulmalik Yusuf were arrested on the 21st August. Abdimalik Yusuf has since been released on bail, however the victim and Hashi remain in custody.
In the video report, the victim explained, “One of the men threatened me with a pistol, and took me to the bedroom by force… both of them raped me several times, destroying my pride and dignity,” She went onto argue, “I am appealing to the government to take legal action against the rapists, they might have done the same to other poor girls,”
While both victim and journalist sit in jail, the two perpetrators remain free with still no investigation taking place to address the case, and as yet, none forthcoming.
This latest incident highlights the ongoing struggle and threats to the dignity and human rights that survivors of sexual violence face in obtaining justice for the crimes perpetrated against them. Not only have they experienced the extreme brutality of sexual violence, but have been doubly victimized through the application of the law to discredit and delegitimize her. The use of the law provides a veneer of legitimacy for practices which are contradictory to any and all recognised guidance in how to deal with survivors of sexual violence.
SIHA’s Regional Director, Hala Alkarib, stated: “This is a harsh remainder of the case took place in early 2013 where a rape survivor and the journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Somali state for reporting sexual violence. It’s alarming that the Somali government persist on exercising impunity for perpetrators and assuming that suppressing reporting of rape whilst criminalising victims and human rights defenders will somehow end rape in Somalia and make the problem go away.”
The arrest of both victim and journalist is a crude attempt at silencing survivors who have the courage to challenge the impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. Moreover, it attempts to place government institutions, such as Radio Mogadishu beyond criticism or accountability for sexual violence.
SIHA demands that:
- Both the female survivor and the journalist are released immediately and unconditionally and that the alleged rape is fully and independently investigated by the police.
- For the Somali government comply with the stipulations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and with the International Convention on Human Rights to which it is a signatory and thus allow both freedom of the press and protection and redress for victims of SGBV
- For the international community, and in particular, major financial donors to the Somali government to assert pressure onto the Somali government to release both victim and journalist, but also to demand greater measures to be applied to both protect and provide redress to survivors of SGBV.
- This is far from the first instance of the Somali National Government deploying the law to silence survivors of sexual violence from speaking out. In a very public case early in 2013, a female rape survivor and journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, were arrested and charged with fabricating false stories and insulting a government institution, following the survivor’s claims that she had been raped by government forces. Following sustained and intense international outcry, both were eventually released and their convictions overturned. See here
- Sexual violence continues to blight Mogasighu and is perpetrated frequently by armed militias who have been identified by survivors as government or government affiliated as well as independent. In March 2013, SIHA and its affiliate partners in Mogadishu documented 21 cases during a 3 day period.
- Human Rights Defenders are frequently targeted for their work on sexual violence, with many being harassed in the course of their work and lawyers having been repeatedly threatened for their work in defending survivors and attempting to prosecute perpetrators.
- Despite numerous statements by the government stating that sexual violence is a serious issue that the government is doing all it can to tackle, impunity remains high with few perpetrators being held accountable or imprisoned.
- Victims and family members who seek to obtain justice frequently find themselves subject to interrogation and arrest by police who question the integrity of the victim as opposed to investigating the reported incident. In March 2013, SIHA documented the case of a man whose daughter had been raped yet when he went to report the case to the police, he himself was arrested.
- UN Human rights Council reports, inclusive of those submitted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Women, have widely acknowledged the breadth and scale of sexual violence taking place in Mogadishu, with one report stating that as many as 20 cases of sexual violence being reported per day. (A/HRC/21/36 United Nations support to end human rights abuses and combat impunity in Somalia. 21st September 2012 Human Rights Council twenty first session Annual Report of the HCRH p6 para 24)
Additional information on sexual violence in Somalia can be found at the following:
- SIHA report to the 52nd Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
- SIHA Report to the 53rd Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
- SIHA Public Statement: Justice & Sexual Violence in Somalia (March 2013)
- A/HRC/20/16/Add.3 Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo
- A/HRC/21/36 United Nations support to end human rights abuses and combat impunity in Somalia. 21st September 2012 Human Rights Council twenty first session Annual Report of the HCRH
- Journalists Under Attack in Somalia: The Guardian, 3rd May 2013