Somalia has for the first time used DNA evidence to obtain a criminal conviction, sentencing three men to death on Sunday for the gang-rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, the Bureau of Forensic Science said.
The country got its first-ever forensic laboratory in 2017 in the semiautonomous state of Puntland, seeking to tackle widespread sexual violence in a country where two decades of conflict and turmoil have put justice out of reach for most.
The bureau said in a statement that Somalia had “joined, for the first time, the rest of the world in utilising science to solve a heinous criminal case”.
In February, the kidnapping of 12-year-old Aisha Ilyas Adan – who was gang-raped and tortured to death, her body dumped outside her parents home – sparked outrage and protests in the region.
Human Rights Watch has described rape as “normal” in Somalia, with police often failing to take cases seriously.
The Puntland state government enacted a Sexual Offences Act in 2016, which criminalised sexual offences and imposed tough penalties.
The central government in Mogadishu is still working on adopting Somalia’s first-ever national rape laws, with a new Sexual Offences Act adopted by ministers in May 2018. It still needs approval by parliament.
About 10 suspects were arrested in connection with Adan’s rape and murder.
State prosecutors said 37 DNA samples were taken from the suspects and stored in the lab, which cannot at present analyse such material.
The samples were sent to neighbouring Kenya for processing, which linked three of the suspects to the crime.
High court judge Abdinur Jama Hussein on Sunday sentenced the three “to the death penalty for kidnapping, raping, and murdering Aisha Ilyas.”
In Somalia, the death penalty is carried out by firing squad.