Last month, I mentioned that the Somalian government had arrested Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist who wrote a story about a woman who had been raped and alleged that her rapists were government security forces. Ibrahim has now been sentenced to one year in prison for helping the woman "fabricate a false claim."
The woman has also been sentenced to a year in prison, after a midwife conducted "a finger test, an unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited because it is not a credible test."
The grounds for the convictions are unclear, but the court appeared to convict the two under Somalia's penal code and newly added charges under Sharia (Islamic) law. The journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, was sentenced to one year for fabricating a false claim – even though he never published the allegation anywhere – entering the home of another man without permission, and falsely accusing a government body of committing a crime that damages state security. The woman was also sentenced to one year in prison for fabricating a rape case that damages state security.Clearly, the implications for challenging human rights violations when victims and journalists and/or advocates are jailed are dire.
..."These guilty verdicts mean that any Somali who is raped or otherwise abused by Somali security forces will think twice about reporting it to the police, and journalists will be cautious of even interviewing victims of human rights violations," said Netsanet Belay, Africa programme director at Amnesty International. "The government should quash the case and order the immediate release of the journalist from prison."
In an official statement, the US State Department registered its concern about the case and called on "the Somali Government to act quickly to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law." Which is kind of a muddled statement, in that the rule of law is currently what's undermining human rights. Still, this is good:
Respect for women's rights and media freedom are fundamental to ensuring the development of a strong, stable, and vibrant democracy in Somalia. Women should be able to seek justice for rape and other gender-based violence without fear of retribution, and journalists in Somalia must be free to work without being subjected to violence and harassment. These prosecutions run counter to protections contained in Somalia’s provisional constitution, and send the wrong message to perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence. We have raised our concerns directly with the Somali Government and have urged it to uphold its constitution, including with respect to media freedom, women's rights, and due process of law.To contact the US State Department and urge them to continue pressing for justice in this case, go here. For those who would appreciate a sample letter, I'll drop the letter I sent into comments.
[Via FMF News.]