In September 2017, a woman with a disability was raped by a taxi driver in Hargeisa, Somaliland, and in fear of stigmatization, she did not report the incident immediately; however, in February 2018, she went to the authorities after she found out that she was pregnant.
When the case finally went to the prosecution and the police, the alleged perpetrator denied all the crimes against him. In view of insufficient evidence, the survivor’s lawyer asked a district court judge to order a DNA test to determine the paternity of the child – sending a very questionable message about the judge’s stand overall.
In a shocking ruling based on the release of positive DNA results identifying the alleged perpetrator as the father, the Chairperson of Hargeisa District Court – Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi sentenced the alleged perpetrator to death by stoning and the woman rape survivor to a flogging of 100 lashes for adultery. This ruling was extended despite the fact that no criminal case was before this judge and his jurisdiction is only for cases with sentences of less than 3 years of imprisonment.
“This is not the first instance this particular judge has imprisoned someone without due process of law. In another parenthood case, he sentenced the losing party to imprisonment. I offered a free legal service to lodge an appeal, and subsequently – the appeal court quashed that previous judgment because there was no criminal case before them. This case has a lot of similarities, but it is worse in many other ways,” Guleid Jama a Somaliland Human rights Lawyer shared.
Current developments around the case in March 2019 articulate that Judge Ali Suudi of the appeal court has since repressed the district court judgment – ordering the prosecution to investigate and submit the case to a competent court. Conversely, a complaint against the district court judge was lodged in to the Judiciary Commission awaiting a decision.
Last year, the passage of the first Rape and Sexual Offences Bill in Somaliland made headlines internationally, and was truly a celebrated victory for women however, the same bill is currently under suspension and being reviewed.
SIHA’s Regional Director – Hala Alkarib condemns that the judge’s ruling of stoning is representative of Salafism emphasizing the continued suffering of Somali civilians in the name of dubious and militant views of Islamic traditions. She adds that the risks lie in the normalization of such an act therefore it is crucial and important for the Somaliland government to counter and stand against the practice of stoning politically and ideologically. SIHA has frequently warned about the risks of growing religious militancy in Somaliland as a result of extensive exposure to militant ideologies formally and informally. As stated in our findings of our report on gang rape, the idealization of Shari’a law combined with a fragile statutory system bears dangerous spaces for radicalization of those who suffer from frustrations over the current state of the system.