DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar deported a Libyan woman who claimed that she had been gang raped by pro-government militiamen, after spending nearly a month in the Gulf Arab country, a United Nations refugee group said Friday.
Eman Al-Obaidi, who arrived in Qatar on May 11, was detained by Qatari officials Wednesday evening and forced with her visiting parents to board a flight Thursday to Benghazi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Al-Obaidi, who had been staying in a Doha hotel, is said to have fallen out of favour with Libyan rebels in Qatar.
A diplomatic source told Reuters the Qatari government was asked by Qatar-based Libyan rebels to return her to eastern Libya, where they are locked in an armed conflict against the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“The Qataris would not have done this unless asked,” said the diplomatic source, who declined to be named.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards described the action as “violating international law.”
“Forcibly returning a refugee who survived gang rape not only violates international law, but is cruel and could trigger further trauma,” Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement issued late Thursday.
“All eyes are now on the authorities in eastern Libya, who should allow Al-Obaidi to leave the country.”
In March, Obaidi burst into a Tripoli hotel and, weeping, made a desperate plea to journalists, saying that she had been held for two days and raped by 15 militiamen loyal to Gaddafi.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States had spoken repeatedly with Qatar about Obaidi’s case and was disappointed that she had been expelled.
“We were disappointed with her forced return and we believe it’s a breach of humanitarian norms,” Toner told a news briefing
“Her life was clearly at risk in Libya, which is why she left for Qatar,” Toner said, adding they had urged the rebels to ensure her safety.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington)
Reporting by Regan E. Doherty; Editing by Reed Stevenson and Michael Roddy