For those just tuning in now, a recap: members of the Somali security forces allegedly raped a woman last August. She told her story to a journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim. When she reported the rape last February, the Somali government arrested her and subjected her to a two-day coercive interrogation without a lawyer, during which they allegedly forced her to give up the names of any journalists she had spoken to about the rape. The police then arrested Ibrahim, and brought criminal charges against both him and the alleged victim. Then, for good measure, they also threw in charges against the woman’s husband, and two acquaintances of hers who were accused of introducing her to journalists. A lower court convicted both the woman and Ibrahim of “insulting a government body,” and sentenced each of them to one year in prison.
How could this situation get any more ridiculous, you ask? Were costumes perhaps involved, or a salad featuring both mayonnaise and jell-o as ingredients? Take it away, Human Rights Watch:
“On March 3, 2013, the court of appeals upheld a lower court’s conviction of journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, but reduced his sentence from one year to six months. The judge stated that Abdiaziz Abdinur had not respected the laws of the country and the ethics of journalism by not reporting his interview with the alleged rape victim. It is unclear what laws specifically he is found to have violated.”
That’s right – while he was first convicted of “insulting a government body,” even though he never actually published his story, his conviction was upheld on the basis that he failed to report the story! Attention all journalists in Somalia: if you are either reporting or not reporting a story, you are probably committing a crime.
(There is a small silver lining here: the conviction against the alleged rape victim herself was vacated on appeal. I am very pleased that she is now free, but in light of the above, I will not be awarding any Lucky Charms to the appeals court.)