On Sunday, a Somali appeals court overturned the conviction of an alleged rape survivor who accused security forces of raping her in August 2012. A journalist who had interviewed the woman but never published a story about the allegations had his sentenced reduced, but was not cleared of the charges against him. Both the woman and journalist had been originally sentenced to one year in prison each for offending the honor of a State institution. The journalist was also convicted of filing a false report even though he never published a story on the case.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said in a statement “The overturned verdict and release of the woman who had the courage to come forward reflects the fact that victims of sexual violence should not be criminalized for reporting this crime… I ask survivors of rape not to be deterred, and to always seek justice.”

The U.S. Department of State also released a statement on the overturned conviction. Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, said in the statement, “The United States welcomes the Mogadishu appeals court’s March 3 decision to overturn the conviction of a 27-year-old alleged rape survivor but is profoundly disappointed by the same court’s decision to uphold the conviction of journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim who interviewed her… Sexual violence and restrictions on freedom of expression are grave problems in Somalia…Somali institutions must demonstrate the will to protect human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression as part of their efforts to promote peace and democracy.”

Media Resources: UN News Centre 3/5/2013; LA Times 3/4/2013; US State Department 3/4/2013; Feminist Newswire 2/7/2013

Vintage map of Somalia on grunge paper from Shutterstock

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