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LIBYA: Rights group demands proof alleged rape victim is unharmed

March 28, 2011 |  3:47 pm

Libya-obaidi
The Libyan government claims an alleged Libyan gang rape victim who took her case to the international media in Tripoli is safe and secure. But a rights group says Libyan authorities have a history of abusing rape victims and shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt. 

Iman Obeidi has been missing since Saturday, when she was forcibly bundled into a car and driven off by Libyan security officials after she alleged to reporters that members of Moammar Kadafi's notorious militias gang raped and imprisoned her for two days. 

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group that has been trying unsuccessfully to gain access to Libya, demanded that her family and international media be allowed to independently verify the official claim that she is free and safe. 

“The last time Obeidi was seen, she was bruised and recounting a horrible account of rape, then was snatched from journalists by security forces,” Nadya Khalife, women’s rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, said in a press announcement. “The government needs to produce her, free her, find out what happened and prosecute anyone who violated the law.”

Until the media and her family have that verification, assume that that she remains in state custody, the rights group urged. 

While she's been carted away from public view, a government official has described Obeidi as a prostitute and petty criminal who refused to submit to a rape test and now faces allegations that she defamed the security forces.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of the rights group, said that Libya has a history of mistreating women who have been raped or sexually abused and often jails them for what it describes as their own protection. 

"Libyan judges also have an unfortunate practice of arranging for rapists to marry their victim, with the consent of her family, to 'save' her from ... an otherwise tainted future," Whitson said in an email. "The marriage also allows the rapist to avoid jail time."

-- Borzou Daragahi in Tripoli, Libya

Photo: Iman Obeidi gestures as she cries at a hotel in Tripoli. Credit: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

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