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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Somalia has been without a central government since its last president, dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, fled the country in 1991. Subsequent fighting among rival faction leaders resulted in the killing, displacement, and starvation of thousands of persons and led the U.N. to intervene militarily in 1992. Following the U.N. intervention, periodic attempts at national reconciliation were made, but they did not succeed. In March 2000, formal reconciliation efforts began with a series of small focus group meetings of various elements of Somali society in Djibouti. In May 2000, in Arta, Djibouti, delegates representing all clans and a wide spectrum of Somali society were selected to participate in a "Conference for National Peace and Reconciliation in Somalia." More than 900 delegates, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), attended the Conference. The Conference adopted a charter for a 3-year Transitional National Government (TNG) and selected a 245-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), which included 24 members of Somali minority groups and 25 women. In August 2000, the Assembly elected Abdiqassim Salad Hassan as Transitional President. Ali Khalif Gallayr was named Prime Minister in October 2000, and he appointed the 25-member Cabinet. Administrations in the northwest (Somaliland) and northeast ("Puntland") areas of the country do not recognize the results of the Djibouti Conference, nor do several Mogadishu-based factional leaders. In October 2001 the TNA passed a vote of no confidence in the TNG, and Gallayr was dismissed as Prime Minister. In November 2001 Abdiqassim appointed Hassan Abshir Farah as the new Prime Minister. Serious interclan fighting continued to occur in parts of the country, notably in the central regions of Hiran and Middle Shabelle, the southern regions of Gedo and Lower Shabelle, and in the Middle Juba and Lower Juba regions. No group controls more than a fraction of the country's territory.

Leaders in the northeast proclaimed the formation of the Puntland state in 1998. Puntland's leader, Abdullahi Yusuf, publicly announced that he did not plan to break away from the remainder of the country, but the Puntland Administration did not participate in the Djibouti Conference or recognize the TNG that emerged from it. In July 2001 Yusuf announced his refusal to abide by the Constitution and step down. This led to a confrontation with Chief Justice Yusuf Haji Nur, who claimed interim presidential powers pending elections. In November traditional elders elected Jama Ali Jama as the new Puntland President. Yusuf refused to accept the elders' decision, and in December he seized by force the town of Garowe, reportedly with Ethiopian support. Jama fled to Bosasso. Both Yusuf and Jama continued to claim the presidency, and there were continued efforts to resolve the conflict at the end of 2001. A ban on political parties in Puntland remained in place.

In the northwest, the "Republic of Somaliland" continued to proclaim its independence within the borders of former British Somaliland. Somaliland has sought international recognition since 1991 without success. Somaliland's government includes a parliament, a functioning civil court system, executive departments organized as ministries, six regional governors, and municipal authorities in major towns. During 2001, 97 percent of voters in a referendum voted for independence for Somaliland and for a political party system. Presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held in February 2002; however, President Egal requested and Parliament granted a 1-year extension for the next elections.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

There is no national judicial system in Somalia.

The Transitional Charter, adopted in 2000, provides for an independent judiciary and for a High Commission of Justice, a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeal, and courts of first reference; however, the Charter had not been implemented by year's end. Some regions have established local courts that depend on the predominant local clan and associated factions for their authority. The judiciary in most regions relies on some combination of traditional and customary law, Shari'a law, the Penal Code of the pre-1991 Siad Barre Government, or some combination of the three. For example, in Bosasso and Afmadow, criminals are turned over to the families of their victims, which then exact blood compensation in keeping with local tradition. Under the system of customary justice, clans often hold entire opposing clans or sub-clans responsible for alleged violations by individuals.

Islamic Shari'a courts, which traditionally ruled in cases of civil and family law but extended their jurisdiction to criminal proceedings in some regions beginning in 1994, ceased to function effectively in the country during the year. The Islamic courts in Mogadishu gradually were absorbed during the year by the TNG, and the courts in Merka and Beledweyne ceased to function. In Berbera courts apply a combination of Shari'a law and the former Penal Code. In south Mogadishu, a segment of north Mogadishu, the Lower Shabelle, and parts of the Gedo and Hiran regions, court decisions are based on a combination of Shari'a and customary law. Throughout most of the country, customary law forms a basis for court decisions.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

Somalia's human rights situation is poor, and serious human rights abuses continued through 2001. Citizens' right to change their government is circumscribed by the absence of an established central authority. Many civilian citizens were killed in factional fighting, especially in Gedo, Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Middle Juba, Lower Juba regions, and in the cities of Mogadishu and Bosasso. Kidnaping remained a problem. There were some reports of the use of torture by Somaliland and Puntland administrations and militias. In Somaliland and Puntland, police used lethal force while disrupting demonstrations. The use of landmines, reportedly by the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), resulted in several deaths. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention remained problems. Somaliland authorities detained a number of persons who challenged President Egal and his management of the nascent political party system. In most regions, the judicial system relied on some combination of traditional and customary justice, Shari'a (Islamic) law, and the pre-1991 Penal Code; reports of harsh physical punishments by Islamic Shari'a courts, including public whippings and stonings, were rare. Citizens' privacy rights were limited. There were restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. There were restrictions on freedom of movement. There were several reports of attacks on NGO's during the year. Violence and discrimination against women, including the nearly universal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), continued. The abuse of children remained a problem. Abuse and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in the various clan regions persisted. There was no effective system for the protection of workers' rights, and there were isolated areas where local gunmen forced minority group members to work for them. Child labor and trafficking remained problems.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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