Somalia PM promises to increase protection to rape victims, journalists

[JURIST] Somalia's new prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, said Sunday that the Somali authorities would become more involved in protecting rape victims [statement] following intense criticism after the arrests of a woman allegedly gang-raped by soldiers and the journalist who interviewed her. The trial of an unidentified 27-year-old woman, her husband and the journalist has generated concern [Reuters report] over both sexual violence and freedom of the press in Somalia. The charges against them include insulting a government body, making false accusations, and seeking to profit from the allegations, and the charges carry potential prison sentences. The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura [official profile] criticized the government's response [press release], saying that the "approach taken by the Somali police does not serve the interest of justice; it only serves to criminalize victims and undermine freedom of expression for the press." The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) [official website] also issued a statement [press release], saying they "will monitor the process throughout and trusts that the defendants will receive a fair trial, in line with the Government of Somalia's stated commitment to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice." Saaid has promised to reform Somali armed forces and the judiciary after the trial, has launched public awareness campaigns to reduce rape, and will soon form a new and independent task force on human rights which will investigate violence against women and journalists.

A collection of human rights groups and free-press advocates issued a joint statement [JURIST report] in January calling for the release of the journalist and three others who were detained in Somalia following the 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. Ibrahim had interviewed a 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.

 

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