An Islamist rebel administration in Somalia has had a 13-year-old girl stoned to death for adultery after the child's father reported that she was raped by three men.
Amnesty International said al-Shabab militia, which controls the southern city of Kismayo, arranged for 50 men to stone Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow in front of about 1,000 spectators. A lorry load of stones was brought to the stadium for the killing.
Amnesty said Duhulow struggled with her captors and had to be forcibly carried into the stadium.
"At one point during the stoning, Amnesty International has been told by numerous eyewitnesses that nurses were instructed to check whether Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was still alive when buried in the ground. They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue," the human rights group said. It continued: "Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander."
Amnesty said Duhulow was originally reported by witnesses as being 23 years old, based on her appearance, but established from her father that she was a child. He told Amnesty that when they tried to report her rape to the militia, the child was accused of adultery and detained. None of the men accused was arrested.
This is, absolutely and unequivocally, beneath contempt.
As David Copeman, an Amnesty International campaigner in Somalia, said, "this was not justice, nor was it an execution ... [it] is yet another human rights abuse committed by the combatants to the conflict in Somalia." It is also proof of the stateent that those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit attrocities.
But that is not all that is wrong with this picture. Recently, Time magazine asked "whether the international community is willing to take the political risk of accepting the emergence of a Taliban-like authority in Somalia" in order to tackle the problem of piracy. The answer, because "the transitional government and international community have to start dealing with all the actors that regular Somalis identify as part of the nation's life," appears to be yes.
Though the US intervened in the country to topple the Islamist government in the early 1990s, those same religious fanatics have now become preferable to the pirates whose success in taking hostages and claiming ransoms is unprecedented. Officially, western backing is with the transitional government against which the Islamists are rebelling, but it is clear that these rebels - fighting for the politics of reaction - are preferrable to the pirates whose motivations are rooted in the interest of ordinary Somalis.
That interest, of course, is defence against toxic waste dumping and illegal trawling, and it is an unanswerable condemnation of western foreign policy that the world's powers would back maniacs who kill rape victims in the name of justice against those trying to prevent depletion of food sources and destruction of the environment.
Perhaps that is why they are a "global threat," the focus of an international conference on Somalia taking place next week,whilst religious fanatics do not get a mention.
The latter do not so obviously threaten "Somalia's private sector, international businesses, and governments," whose plans "to launch new initiatives for reconstruction and job creation" will probably follow the standard IMF model of "structural readjustment." The anarcho-capitalists of the Ludwig von Mises institute were quick to rave about this when it was tried three years ago, and yet neither the "small number of international investors" not the "burgeoning" telecommunications industry boosted prosperity for anybody but themselves, and people continue to flee war, tyranny, and turmoil in record numbers.
The solution to this problem is not clear. What is apparent is that supporting Islamists to get rid of pirates does nothing for those caught up in this vicious cycle of violence. Improvements will not come until the "security" of business and investors is no longer put ahead of the basic welfare of Somalis.