SOMALIA executed two men by firing squad on Tuesday for the gang rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, a government official said, adding it would serve as a warning to others in a country where crimes against women have rarely been punished.
Aisha Ilyes Aden was abducted at a market in northern Puntland’s Galkayo town in February last year. Her body was found the next morning near her home. She had been gang-raped, her genitals mutilated and strangled to death.
The brutal nature of the killing triggered public outrage and demonstrations calling for authorities to enforce a landmark 2016 law to secure justice in the East African nation, where rape victims are stigmatised and forced to marry assailants.
Three men were convicted and sentenced to death in May last year. The decision was upheld by an appeal court in June.
‘This is a clear indication that justice is served in Puntland,’ Puntland’s Justice Minister Awil Sheikh Hamid told a news conference. ‘It is a worrying alert for those who try to carry out crimes against women and girls.’
The third man’s execution has been delayed, he said, but did not give further details.
Adeer Ilyas, the victim’s father, who witnessed the execution of the two men in the port city of Bosasso early on Tuesday, said he was happy that justice had been served.
‘This case will serve as a lesson learned,’ Ilyas told local reporters. ‘It will help to ensure that all Somali girls will be safe.’
Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region passed the country’s first law criminalising offences such as sexual harassment and rape in 2016.
Convictions under the law are rare, as police are either unaware of the law or do not see violence against women as a serious crime, say women’s rights campaigners.
Many rape survivors are reluctant to report abuses, fearing they will be shunned and deemed ‘unmarriable’ by their community, the campaigners say.
‘This is the first time such a sentence has been meted in a case involving a woman and we commend the government,’ said a statement from the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development, a local women’s rights organisation.
‘While we do not support the death penalty, we believe that this will send the strongest message that violence against women will not be tolerated.’