The United Nations human rights agency has condemned the official response to sexual assault victims on Nauru and says a pregnant refugee who says she was raped should urgently receive an abortion if she wants one.
A 23-year-old Somali woman who goes by the pseudonym Abyan has alleged a rape at Nauru 15 weeks ago left her pregnant. She is seeking a termination.
The Turnbull government flew her to Australia for the procedure earlier this month, but returned her to the island a few days later, claiming she rejected treatment when it was offered.
Abyan’s advocates said she simply asked for counselling so she could make an informed decision before proceeding.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said the organisation has been in direct contact with Abyan who is mentally and physically fragile and “deeply traumatised by her experiences since the day of the alleged rape”.
“She has refused to give information to the Nauru police about her attacker because she is understandably afraid of reprisals,” Mr Colville said in a statement.
“She does not feel safe, given that her alleged attacker lives on Nauru, which is a very small island state with a population of around 10,000.”
Australia and Nauru must urgently provide “a decent option” for Abyan, enabling her to obtain “adequate mental and physical care and to terminate her pregnancy if she desires”.
Mr Colville was concerned about reports that Nauru police failed to act against alleged perpetrators of violence against women, particularly when the victims were asylum seekers and refugees.
“We are aware of a growing number of sexual assault and rape allegations since Australia restarted its policy of transferring asylum seekers to Nauru for processing in 2012,” he said.
He cited the case of Nazanin, an Iranian asylum seeker allegedly sexually assaulted in May last year who was evacuated to Australia for treatment of “mental and physical consequences of the ordeal”.
She remains in Australia while her brother and mother are on Nauru, not knowing when the family will be reunited.
Mr Colville also condemned Nauruan officials for their treatment of another Somali refugee who claimed she was raped in August, saying the police report, including the victim’s name and details of the rape allegation “was inappropriately given to the media”.
He noted no arrests have occurred over the alleged rapes – a trend that left his office “very disturbed”.
“[I]mpunity for such serious crimes increases the risk they will be repeated,” Mr Colville said.
“It is a matter of particular concern that asylum seeker and refugee women who have allegedly been raped or sexually assaulted are left in unsafe conditions, given their own vulnerable status and the close proximity of their attackers, and tend to be stigmatised by the population and by members of the Nauru police force.
“Women are also less likely to speak out if they fear reprisals and see little-to-no chance of justice being done.”