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Jail fear prevents women in Mauritania from filing rape complaints



Human rights activists are calling for a change to Mauritanian law so that women and girls who have been raped will not be prosecuted for sexual relations outside marriage.

Rape survivors are reluctant to file complaints in the west African country in case they are then charged, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Adultery is known as “zina” and, in theory, is punishable by flogging, jail terms, or death by stoning if the offender is married or divorced. Mauritania does not as a rule carry out corporal punishments, so flogging and death by stoning can transmute into being imprisoned indefinitely.

One case cited by HRW involved a 15-year-old girl who was imprisoned after being repeatedly gang-raped by four men who held her captive for two weeks, because one of the men – whom she knew – said he would marry her.

In another case, a prosecutor was reported as asking a rape survivor: “If you didn’t consent, why didn’t you tell your parents?” When the survivor said she knew the man who raped her, the prosecutor said: “All the things you are saying are lies, you did this willingly.”

Government statistics are not freely available, so it is impossible to know how many people are in jail for zina, but girls as well as adults are thought to have been imprisoned for the “offence”.

“Women and girls should not run the risk of jail or further stigma for reporting sexual abuse,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson. “To combat sexual violence, Mauritania should require law enforcement and public health systems to stop treating victims as suspects, support them in seeking justice and recovery, and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Read also: Trial of spy who ‘offered sex for job’ puts strain on US- Russia ties

HRW called for the government to decriminalise and stop prosecuting and detaining people for zina, as well as to pass a law defining rape and criminalising all other forms of sexual violence.

The Mauritanian government responded at length to the report, saying that most incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence were against minors or adolescents. “Perpetrators are often individuals close to the victims or family members who exploit the innocence and immaturity of the above mentioned people to sexually abuse them,” the government statement said.

Life is not easy for many Mauritanian women and girls. The prevalence of female genital mutilation is 67%, some ethnic groups see domestic violence as a sign that a husband loves his wife, and many girls are sent away to “fat camps” in the desert to be force-fed, so that they put on large amounts of weight and fit Mauritanian notions of beauty.


19 African migrants die after boat sinks off Tunisian coast



The Tunisian Coast Guard says at least 19 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa died on Saturday night after their boat sank off the Tunisian coast as they tried to cross the dangerous Mediterranean Sea to Italy.

In a report on Sunday morning, the Coast Guard said the migrant boat disaster was the latest in recent in the last four days where five migrant boats sunk off the southern Tunisian city of Sfax, with over 67 reported missing and nine confirmed dead, raising a significant increase in boats heading towards Italy.

“The Tunisian Coast Guard rescued five people from the boat off the coast of Mahdia after a journey that started from Sfax beaches,” an official at the Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), Romadan ben Omar, who was part of the rescue operation team said told reporters.

The Coast Guard said it had stopped about 80 boats heading for Italy in the past four days while it detained more than 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries.

“The coast near Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe,” Omar said.

A U.N. data released last month had noted that at least 12,000 migrants who reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022, overtaking Libya which was the main departure point for migrants.

According to FTDES statistics, Tunisia’s coast guard prevented more than 14,000 migrants setting off in boats during the first three months of this year, compared with 2,900 during the same period last year.

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Somali government says over 3,000 al-Shabab militants killed in six months



The Somali government says more than 3,000 al-Shabab militants have been killed by the Somali National Army (SNA) forces, while as many as 3,700 sustained injuries since the government launched an all out military operation against the terror group six months ago.

In a statement by the Somali
Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism on Sunday, during the same period, the military was able to liberate over 70 towns and villages which were under the control of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, with the support of local militia groups.

“The government stands by its commitment to ensuring that the SNA is carrying out the ongoing operations in strict compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law, Islamic law, and Somali customary rules of warfare,” the Ministry said in the statement issued in Mogadishu.

“Over the last six months, the government forces have intensified their attacks against al-Shabab since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an all-out war against the militants last year,” the statement said.

The statement said the government plans to launch the second phase of this military offensive against the militant group, adding that the al-Shabab militants have continued to suffer defeats in central and southern regions and across Somalia.

It noted that a major security operation is set to be launched in the capital Mogadishu to ensure that the fugitive militants do not harm city residents.

“The new operation is aimed at protecting the city and its civilians as government wants to ensure that the people’s safety is not disturbed during the holy month of Ramadan,” it said.

On assumption of office on power on May 1, 2022, President Mohamud had vowed to intensify military operations to flush out al-Shabab militants from their strongholds to “stop the extortion of the Somali people and the spread of propaganda, intimidation, and extremism in Somalia.”

Some of the measures, according to the President, was to equip willing local militias to help the SNA forces in the fight against the insurgents which the government says has been largely successful.

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