International

Somali woman who reported rape sentenced

Journalists who reported story are to go to jail, while 19-year-old alleged victim will be confined to home for 6 months

Abdimalik Yusuf (left), head of Shabelle radio and Mohamed Bashir, also a journalist, were sentenced Monday in Mogadishu for reporting on the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman.
Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

A Somali court has sentenced a woman who said she was raped and two journalists who reported her story.

The court passed the verdict on Monday in the capital Mogadishu, saying the journalists were guilty of defamation and insulting state institutions.

The 19-year old unidentified woman, who is also a journalist, was handed a suspended six-month jail sentence for defamation and lying, during which time she will be confined to her home, said Judge Hashi Elmi Nur.

The journalists are to serve out their sentences, of one year and six months respectively, or pay a fine in order to win early release.

It is the second time this year Somalia has jailed a woman for speaking out about rape and journalists for interviewing her.

"The manager of Radio Shabelle, Abdilmalik Yusuf, was found guilty of offending state institutions, and therefore will serve a prison term of one year," the judge told the court.

"Journalist Mohamed Bashir was found guilty of defamation and making false rape accusations, so he is given a six-month jail term."

Both have the possibility of paying a fine to leave jail, equivalent to around a dollar per day of their sentence, around $365 for Yusuf and $180 for Bashir.

Rape, and reporting on sexual assault, is one of the most sensitive topics in Somalia.

The alleged victim last month told the independent Radio Shabelle she was attacked and raped at gunpoint by two fellow journalists. But it was the journalists who reported her story who were jailed.

Last month the United Nations in Somalia called for a "proper investigation" into the case, while the United States said it was "deeply concerned."

Neither of the men accused of the rape were arrested.

'Unscientific and degrading'

In February, a Somali journalist and a rape victim he interviewed were both sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty of "offending state institutions."

In that case, the court found the woman had lied after a midwife conducted a "finger test" to see if she had been raped, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) said was an "unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited."

They were released two months into their jail term after the case sparked widespread international criticism. 

In August, a Somali woman who alleged she was gang-raped by African Union soldiers was also held by police for questioning.

Last month HRW called on the government to order a new and impartial investigation into that case, saying the response to the incident "has been marred by mismanagement, opacity, and the harassment of the female rape survivor and support service providers."

This "points to security officials trying to silence both those who report the pervasive problem of sexual violence and those who help rape survivors," HRW added.

Somalia's internationally-backed government has repeatedly said that rape and sexual violence against women "are completely unacceptable in Somali culture," but has previously declined to comment on specific cases. It has also insisted it protects press freedom.

Agence France Presse

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