Lesbians May Have Been Sentenced to Death for 'Unnatural Behaviour'

It was reported in the Mogadishu daily "Qaran" on February 20, that two women accused of having a lesbian relationship, have been sentenced to death by a court in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in the north. In the first case of its kind in the country—a culturally conservative Muslim nation—the two unnamed women were found guilty of "exercising unnatural behaviour." The relationship between the two women was discovered after one of them sued her partner, who had lived in the US, for infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease. Hundreds packed the court in the northern coastal town of Boosaaso in the week of February 19, to hear the case. They cheered as the judge handed down death sentenced on the two women. The women are reported to have been tried under Somali Criminal Punishment Law, which is loosely based on Islamic Sharia law. A date for the executions, which are normally carried out by firing squad in public, is expected to be announced shortly. Local observers said that homosexual activities in Somalia are known to exist - but are rarely discussed publicly. Much of the country is controlled by feuding militia leaders, but Puntland declared itself autonomous from Somalia in August 1998, and has since set up its own administrative infrastructure. The International Gay and Lesbian Human rights Commission (IGLHRC) have been unable to confirm the story, Puntland officials have accused the Mogadishu press of inventing it in order to discredit them. The IGLHRC is concerned that denials by Puntland authorities may be unreliable, and are asking for urgent letters asking for official clarification, and in the event that it is confirmed, that the women be pardoned and freed, to:

His Excellency Abdullah Yusef Axmed, President, Puntland State of Somalia Tel: +252 944 5670 or +252 914 470 7238. Fax: +252 944 6503 or +252 545 4024
Source: IGLHRC, 1.3.01.

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