Throughout history, women have been used as tools of war, propaganda, and injustice. Tragically, in contemporary time we have seen history repeat in war and conflict zones from Bosnia & Herzegovina, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the comfort women of Japan. But war is not the only excuse for this depravity and abuse of human rights. Rape is perpetrated in all cosmopolitan cities and rural areas throughout the world and will continue until a cultural and societal mind-set changes and the victim is not blamed or stigmatized, and the perpetrator is brought to accountability and justice.
An IDP (internally displaced camp) in Somalia is the recent scene of an alleged rape by men she claimed wearing government uniforms who were members of Somali security forces. Both she and the journalist who interviewed her were both sentenced to one year in prison by Mogadishu.
Both the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, have decried the sentencing and called for the government to re-open its case. “The Secretary-General urges the Government of Somalia to ensure that all allegations of sexual violence are investigated fully and perpetrators are brought to justice. Above all, it is essential that the rights of the alleged victim and the journalist to a fair and transparent judicial process, including the right of appeal, are fully respected.”
From reports, IDP camps in and around Mogadishu have experienced pervasive sexual violence. Despite the courage this woman undertook to report her alleged abuse, the festering results of rape including stigmatization and shame haunt her and her family members. If rape survivors come forward, will justice be their double-edged sword?
UN News Centre Source
“Sexual abuse in the camps for displaced people in Somalia is a real issue, and any effort to expose, denounce and deter these crimes should be supported,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. “It is deeply disturbing that a woman alleging rape can be penalized for reporting such a crime, and a journalist jailed for investigating it.”
Last month, Somali authorities arrested the woman – who claimed she was raped in September by armed men in government uniforms while living in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) – and the journalist who interviewed her, as well as the person who introduced them. Two other individuals have also been charged in connection with the case.
The journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, was charged for offending the honour of a State institution and for filing a false report in spite of never having published his interview, while the alleged victim was charged for offending the honour of a State institution.
“I raised this case 10 days ago directly with the Government of Somalia,” Ms. Pillay said. “I am now calling on the Government to urgently re-open this case and launch a full inquiry to clearly establish what happened and, if any allegations of abuses against the victim and the journalist are confirmed, to hold those responsible accountable.”
Ms. Pillay underlined that the incident also puts at risk freedom of expression in a country where independent journalists have been regularly targeted and killed. “Sexual violence is a perfectly valid subject for any journalist to investigate. No journalist should be arrested and sentenced by a court to one year in jail for doing his work.”
She also condemned the statements made by some public authorities, including Police Commissioner General Sharif Shekuna Maye at a press conference last month, which exposed the alleged victim to public stigmatization, and undermined her right to presumption of innocence.
“I am very concerned about the impact the penalization of the woman alleging rape could have in the fight against impunity in sexual violence cases, especially given the reports of increasing sexual violence in Somalia,” the High Commissioner said. “And I am particularly shocked by the exposure of the victim of the alleged rape to public stigmatization,” she added.
The UN Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, had also spoken out in recent weeks about the case, calling for alleged crimes to be investigated and for a fair judicial process to be ensured.
By, Susan Sacirbey
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PHOTO: Courtesy WFP / David Orr (Women and children wait for assistance from the drought/famine in Dolo, southern Somalia.)