Human Rights Watch has called on Somalia's government to order an impartial, and transparent investigation into an alleged gang-rape by African Union soldiers.

The New York-based rights group said the response to the incident, which took place in August in Mogadishu, "has been marred by mismanagement, opacity, and the harassment of the female rape survivor and support service providers."

A Somali woman alleged in August she had been stopped, blindfolded and forced into a car by three soldiers from the national army, before being handed over to AU troops, where she says she was repeatedly raped.

The Somali authorities seem to be fumbling their investigation.

Liesl Gerntholtz, HRW.

The woman, in her late 20s with a young baby, was unconscious during the attack and says she does not know how many men raped her. She was later thrown back onto the streets.

AMISOM, the 17,700-strong UN-mandated AU force that supports the government in its fight against the armed group, al-Shabab, said at the time it had launched an investigation.

AMISOM soldiers are drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.

But HRW said that "three months on, the government's investigation into the case has been mismanaged and no findings have been made public".

"The Somali authorities seem to be fumbling their investigation of the alleged gang rape instead of seriously pursuing the case," said Liesl Gerntholtz, the group's women's rights director.

She said it appeared that security officials were "trying to silence both those who report the pervasive problem of sexual violence and those who help rape survivors".

'Blanket denials'

Somali officials have promised a report on the case in late November, HRW said, but added it believed it was "unlikely to yield meaningful or credible results".

The group said its researchers had interviewed the Somali woman in Mogadishu and found her account to be credible. It also saw the woman's hospital records, which detailed "injuries that were consistent with forcible sex and other physical abuse".

"The Somali authorities and African Union forces aren't going to make allegations of sexual violence go away with blanket denials," Gerntholtz said.

Source: AFP