20 Jul 2013

Dubai rape victim faces jail sentence

A Norwegian woman sentenced to 16 month in prison in Dubai after she told police she had been raped has spoken to Channel 4 News of her ordeal.

Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, claims she was sexually assaulted in March while she was attending a business meeting in Dubai.

She called the local police but was herself arrested for having sex outside marriage.

She told Channel 4 News hotel staff asked her if she was sure she wanted to involve the police, and she realised why when officers asked her: “Did you call the police because you didn’t like it?”.

“That was when I knew they didn’t believe me,” she added.

Ms Dalelv was eventually convicted of having sex outside marriage, drinking alcohol – a charge she admits – and making false statements.

Norwegian diplomats later secured her release and she has been allowed to stay at a Norwegian church in central Dubai while preparing an appeal against the sentence, due to be heard on 5 September.

She said she wanted to waive her anonymity and go public to highlight the risks for foreign women who fall foul of the Islamic-influenced legal codes in the cosmopolitan Gulf state.

Ms Dalelv told Channel 4 News: “I never thought that this could happen so I’m shocked. It’s unreal.

“I’m not allowed to leave Dubai. They have my passport. I have to stay here until my case is finished.

“I know for a fact that I’ll go back to jail on the fifth and then it’s up to my lawyers how fast they can get me out – either hours or days depending on whether the judge allows it or not.”

I don’t allow myself to hope that much. I’m just trying to take one day at a time. Marte Deborah Dalelv

She added: “I don’t allow myself to hope that much. I’m just trying to take one day at a time.”

Her alleged attacker has received a 13-month sentence for out-of-wedlock sex and alcohol consumption.

Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said Ms Dalelv’s treatment “flies in the face of our notion of justice”.

In London, a spokesman for the Emirates Center for Human Rights, a group monitoring UAE affairs, said the case points out the need for the UAE to expand its legal protections for alleged rape victims.

Rori Donaghy said: “We urge authorities to reform the laws governing incidents of rape in the country to ensure women are protected against sexual violence and do not become the targets of prosecution when reporting crimes.”