By Aggrey Mutambo
A Somali man who insulted and threatened a minister in his country was on Friday convicted for online bullying after he published content attacking the cabinet member for pushing for reproductive rights.
A Dutch Court sitting in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday found Abdulkadir Adde, aka Roberto, had targeted Ms Deqa Yasin, then a Somali Minister for Women Affairs and Human Rights, as she campaigned for support for the sexual offences bill.
The court at the Palace of Justice in The Hague convicted Roberto to a suspended sentence as well as compulsory community service.
Deqa’s legal team, Goran Sluiter and Barbara van Straaten of the Human Rights Law firm Prakken d’Oliveira, proved to the court that Roberto, who also holds Dutch citizenship, had used his Facebook account to insult the minister in September 2020.
They argued he had threatened the life of Ms Yasin in response to the development of Somalia’s first dedicated law against sexual and gender-based violence, the Sexual Offences Bill.
The Bill fell through the Federal Parliament but left an enduring debate on social media that also bordered on hate speech targeting its proponents.
The case is the first criminal issue which a Somali citizen has been indicted in a foreign court, but could set precedent including in Somalia where online trolls or threats are largely ignored.
Ms Yasin had been appointed Minister in the government of President Mohamed Farmaajo. She served until October 2020.
She is a Human Rights Activist.
Prior to an end to her term, she had been pursuing to establish a law specifically protecting women against early childhood marriages, rape and other sexual harassment.
Her desires to establish the law, however, saw her trolled online with some Facebook and Twitter accounts directly threatening her life.
According to the plaintiff, Roberto issued threats in a video posted on Facebook on September 15, 2020 calling on Somali militant group Al Shabaab… “and the general public to kill me because of my leadership in the negotiations to bring the Sexual Offence Bill to Parliament.
“The defendant in the video went further and stated that he would take full responsibility on behalf of anyone who kills me”, she said.
The Bill would be Somalia’s most definitive piece of legislation in dealing with sex pests. But it was never passed.
Ms Deqa believes that is because opponents of the Bill recruited online warriors to create Facebook and Twitter accounts “to spread malicious stories attacking the Bill and myself.
“Online abuse seems to be on the rise, particularly against women’s rights advocates and women politicians, and this may potentially shrink the space for women’s political participation,” she said after the decision on Friday, in a statement.
“The defendant, by spreading lies and propaganda, prevented an opportunity for the Sexual Offences Bill to be debated and enacted.
“Those seeking for likes, subscribers and comments should be careful with what they post for public consumption, irrespective of where they are domiciled. The rule of law applies everywhere, and you, too, can be persecuted. Freedom of speech has limitations and comes with responsibility.”