UN issues urgent call for decent solution to be found for Abyan

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued an urgent call to the governments of Australia and Nauru to find a decent solution for 'Abyan' - a refugee being held on Nauru who is 15 weeks pregnant after reportedly being raped on Nauru in July.

The UN has spoken directly with Abyan.

The Human Rights Law Centre's Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said the UN's statement reflected the urgency and abhorrence of Abyan's situation.

"Abyan came here seeking safety but has suffered great harm in our care. It's clear the only decent thing to do is bring her to Australia for the sensitive, professional medical treatment she needs. It's not about politics, it's a matter of basic human dignity," said Mr Webb.

The UN also says it is "disturbed" by the growing number of sexual assaults against refugee women on Nauru, the failure to hold perpetrators to account and the fact that women who have been assaulted are left in unsafe conditions.

"People who have escaped danger should be able to rebuild their lives somewhere safe. It is increasingly clear that Nauru is not a safe place for the women we've sent there," said Mr Webb.

Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy on 0437 278 961 or


This is the statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and can be found online here.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville 
Location:        Geneva 
Subject:        Nauru / Australia         

We call upon Australia and Nauru to urgently provide a decent option for 'Abyan,' (the pseudonym of a Somali refugee) to obtain adequate mental and physical care and to terminate her pregnancy if she desires. Abyan was allegedly raped in Nauru in July, and is now 15 weeks pregnant as a result. She was returned 11 days ago from Australia to Nauru, without a termination having taken place. 

OHCHR has been in direct contact with her. Abyan is in a very fragile mental and physical condition and is 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. 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. OHCHR is concerned about reports that the Nauru police have failed to take action against alleged perpetrators of violence against women, particularly when the victims have been 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. For instance, one Iranian asylum seeker was allegedly sexually assaulted last May. She was subsequently evacuated to Australia where she is still receiving medical treatment for both mental and physical consequences of the ordeal. Her brother and mother, however, have been left behind on Nauru and do not know when they will be able to reunite with her. Another Somali refugee has claimed that she was raped in August. The police report, which included the name of the alleged victim and details about the rape allegation, was inappropriately given to the media. No one has been arrested in any of these cases. 

OHCHR is very disturbed by this trend, since impunity for such serious crimes increases the risk they will be repeated. 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 stigmatized 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. 


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)