News from Somalia, Part 1

January 23, 2013

The blog post State of my world in August 2011 discussed the crisis in Somalia, which was a failed state then and is now according to reports of Western news media recovering.

It remains to be seen if this recovery is for real and there are signs that Somalia may be soon in the headlines again. An actualized assessment of the situation will eventually be published here, but the following text only wants to highlight one special problem that was discussed in State of my world and which seems to be still unresolved.

The plight of a Somali rape victim and her supporters

On January 10, 2013, the Central Investigation Department (CID) of the Somali police in Mogadishu arrested a woman who said she had been raped by government forces.

During her interrogations, the head of the CID, Gen. Abdullahi Hassan Barisse, forced the woman to hand over the telephone numbers of journalists who had interviewed her. The police, using the woman’s cell phone, called Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahimandone, one of the journalist, and ordered him to come to their office. Abdinur Ibrahimand is a freelance journalist who has worked with Dalsan Radio and Badri Media Productions. When he arrived at the police, he was arrested and he is still in custody.

The police released the woman after two days of interrogations and issued a statement that she had retracted the rape allegation. But they detained her husband on January 12, he is also still in custody. According to credible local sources, he maintains that his wife was raped. Two acquaintances of the woman who helped her to meet with journalists were also arrested and are detained until now.

The CID also questioned several other Somali journalists, including foreign correspondent Omar Faruk and radio journalist Abdiaziz Mohamed Dirie, who was held at the National Security Agency facility for one night.

On January 16, the police commissioner, Gen. Sharif Shekuna Maye, held a news conference in Mogadishu during which he alleged that journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur had contributed to a foreign report about the case. The police commissioner’s allegation raises concerns that Abdiaziz Abdinur may face criminal charges and a long prison sentence.

Gen. Sharif Shekuna Maye also publicly presented the woman and claimed that she had confessed to fabricating the story for money, and that she had been persuaded to do so by the journalist and the detained female acquaintance. He said the plot was intended to “tarnish the dignity of the police force and the dignity of the Somali nation.”

On January 18, the minister of interior was quoted in the government press saying that the journalist and the alleged rape victim were guilty of fabricating the story. There are serious concerns about the treatment of the woman while she was in police custody, including the interrogations which took place without the presence of a lawyer. Furthermore, by declaring the detainees guilt, the authorities have disregarded their presumption of innocence, a fundamental due legal process right.

On January 17, the police requested an additional ten days to investigate the case. The attorney general extended the police investigation phase for three days. On January 20 police requested another extension, but the attorney general is reported to have denied the request. The people detained in the case until now had only limited access to family members, legal counsel, or medical treatment.

The police’s handling of this case is clearly aimed at discouraging victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence to report incidents and and it is also aimed to discourage the media from talking about this taboo subject. The police btw. not only paraded the woman in front of the media, but later on commented on the rape victim’s health records in violation of her right to privacy.

The arrests could also be interpreted as a reaction to increased media attention concerning the high levels of rape and other sexual violence in Somalia, including attacks allegedly committed by security forces. On January 6, Universal TV, a Somali television station, aired a similar but unrelated story about armed men in police uniform who had raped a young woman.

Women and girls in Somalia were always reluctant to report rape to authorities because of fear of reprisals, lack of trust in the authorities, and the limited availability of medical, psychosocial, and legal services. They will be even more reluctant in future.

One comment

  1. you got that right, especially with their new president’s ties to Muslim Brotherhood eh


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