Rights groups unite in push to free jailed Somali journalist

[JURIST] A collection of human rights groups and free-press advocates issued a joint statement [press release] Tuesday calling for the release of a journalist and three others who have been detained [Al Jazeera report] in Somalia following one woman's claim of rape by government security forces. Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy websites] joined together to make the public request that Somali forces release journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim and three others who were involved in a report related to rights abuses in the African nation. The arrest of Ibrahim followed an story [Al Jazeera report] alleging that rapes in the nation were frequent. In that report Ibrahim interviewed one woman who claimed she had been raped by government forces a few months prior. According to the groups' statement, the Central Investigation Department (CID) of the Somali police arrested the alleged victim, confiscated her phone to call Ibrahim and insisted he turn himself in. CID has since arrested two others who helped put the victim in touch with the reporter though they did release the alleged victim, allowing her husband to take her place in prison. According Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW [official statement]:

Somalia's new government is saying the right things about the rule of law and a free press, but locking up journalists and others who report rape sends the opposite message. The authorities should release the four detainees, and ensure that the police investigate sexual violence effectively.
Somalia's president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud [BBC profile], said he would not intervene in the actions of the CID and claimed that freedom of the press does not including criticism that tarnishes the government's reputation.

After decades of violence and rights abuses under the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) [CFR backgrounder], Somalia is taking key steps to move towards peace. Last August the UN welcomed the signing of Somalia's National Security and Stabilization Plan [JURIST report]. Also in August the Somalia constituent assembly approved a draft of the new constitution [JURIST report] with over 96 percent of the 645 ballots cast in the special 825-member assembly after eight days of debate. The new constitution also has to be ratified by a national referendum. Last June then-president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] and the TFG signed a decree [JURIST report] establishing the legal framework by adopting a new constitution convened by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). During the same month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] told officials at the Istanbul II Conference on Somalia [materials] that Somalia must take all efforts to smoothly transition [JURIST report] into a permanent government with a new constitution.

 

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