Summary: Ethiopian government ordered to pay $150,000 to victim of abduction, rape and forced marriage

9th March 2016: In a landmark ruling, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ordered the Ethiopian government to pay $150,000 compensation in the case of Woineshet Zebene Negash, who was abducted, raped and forced into marriage at age 13.

In March 2001, Aberew Jemma Negussie and accomplices broke into Woineshet’s house and raped her. Woineshet was rescued and her rapist was arrested. However, they were released on bail and Negussie abducted her again and hid her in his brother’s house. She managed to escape more than a month later, but only after she was forced to sign a piece of paper, which would later be used against her in court, as a “marriage contract”.

In July 2003, in the first Ethiopian case in which accomplices were also charged and convicted for abduction, Negussie was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for abduction and rape. The four accomplices were sentenced to eight years each. However, later that year the sentence was overturned by an appeals court and all five perpetrators were released.

Since the case could not be re-tried in Ethiopia and as all other local avenues to justice were exhausted, a complaint was then filed in 2007 by SRT grantee Equality Now with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on behalf of Woineshet.

Nine years later – and 15 years since Woineshet was raped – the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights found that the Ethiopian government did not protect her from violence and also failed to provide a “decent system of justice,” and that it should implement “escalated and targeted measures” to deal with “marriage” by abduction and rape.

Faiza Jama Mohamed, the Director of Equality Now, said, “the disposability of girls in Ethiopia and around the world needs to end. We cannot be free until every sexist penal code is changed and every single girl is protected from violence”.

Full report from Faiza Jama Mohamed:

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