There’s brewing anger among rights groups in Somalia following the release of a man on death row for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old.
The release was after he paid 75 camels which women’s rights activists described as worrying. According to them, the payment further undermines a revolution law enacted in 2016 to tackle gender violence.
They feared the latest development will promote a culture of impunity and recklessness in the eastern African country if care is not taken.
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Aisha Ilyas Adan went missing for a few hours in February last year and was later found dumped near her house in Galkayo, Puntland region after she was gang-raped, tortured and murdered.
Three men were sentenced to death in May under the 2016 sexual offenses law in the semi-autonomous Puntland region. The law is said to be the first in Somalia to criminalize offenses such as sexual harassment and rape.
Two of the three men – Abdifatah Abdirahman Warsame, 24, and Abdishakur Mohamed Dige, 46, – were shot by a firing squad in the town of Bosaso, on Somalia’s north coast after they were found guilty of the incident.
The execution of a third man, 32-year-old Abdisalam Abdirahman Warsame, was delayed for 10 days so that authorities can re-evaluate his case.
Citing a relative of the victim, Reuters reported that Warsame had been released on February 20 after an agreement to pay the family 75 camels as compensation for the girl’s rape and murder.
“I am upset at how the third man was left out. In Puntland, and in Somalia in general, rape victims don’t get justice due to the involvement of traditional leaders,” said Ubah Mohamed from the Somalia Gender Hub, a women’s rights advocacy group.
“I am against such matters being handled through customary laws and traditions. This is a major problem in our judicial system and it undermines the rights of women and girls.”
Aden was kidnapped, gang-raped and killed on February 24, 2019, after her mother had sent her to a market to get a few items.
Her rape and killing sparked protests and rage among Somalis and the diaspora who demanded justice for her.
Ten men were arrested in connection with the case and samples taken linked three men to the murder and rape while the other seven were acquitted.
Their trial became the first televised rape trial in Somalia and the first in which DNA was used to obtain a conviction, according to VOA.
According to Hawa Aden Mohammed, founder of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, sexual violence in the region is a regular occurrence.
“For years it has been relatively commonplace,” she said.