Africa’s human rights court has ordered Ethiopia to pay $150,000 compensation to a rape victim for failing to protect her rights.
In 2003, Aberew Jemma Negussie was convicted of the abduction and rape of a 13-year-old girl.
This was overturned on appeal as the prosecutor said only a virgin could be raped, and the victim could not prove she had been a virgin.
Rights groups said this was a violation of local and international law.
In 2007, Equality Now took the case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as “local avenues to justice were exhausted”.
Nine years later, the commission, based in The Gambia, has ruled that Ethiopia violated the girl’s rights to equality, dignity and a fair trial, among others.
It said the money would be “compensation for the non-material damage she suffered as a result of the violations”.
GIRL RAPED IN 2001
Equality Now described this as an unprecedented ruling that should send a message to all levels of the Ethiopian society.
The girl was abducted and raped in 2001, and after the incident was reported to the police she was rescued and the perpetrator taken into custody.
But, after being released on bail a few days later, Aberew abducted her again.
She was held for a month before escaping, but while captive was forced to write her name on a piece of paper that would later be used as evidence of marriage.
Abducting girls to be forcefully married is a traditional practice in some parts of Ethiopia.
After being caught for a second time, Aberew, and four accomplices were convicted in 2003, and he received a 10-year sentence.
They were then released on appeal, but Equality Now argued that the law had not been correctly applied as “virginity is not a legal prerequisite for the offence of rape”.
Following the acquittal, rights groups used the case to get a change in the law in Ethiopia to ensure better protection for rape victims and girls.
Equality Now says the victim, now in her 20s, is living in relative safety and pursuing her education.