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Somalia

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In 2012 a Somali government took office with international backing, after two decades of anarchy and warfare. Supported by African Union peacekeeping troops, the government is seeking to extend its jurisdiction over areas of the country still controlled by Islamist militias.

As a consequence of conflict, Somalia's development and humanitarian indicators remain among the lowest in the world. IDLO is helping build and strengthen institutions, as a precondition to improving the lives of Somali citizens. This work includes supporting the judicial system and contributing to the Constitution-making process.

Prosecuting Terrorism Offenses

Terrorism trials in Somalia have overwhelmingly been conducted in military courts under military laws that do not afford rights to the accused as enshrined in international human rights law or the Somali Provisional Constitution. Recognizing the weakness of the current system and the security threat posed by Somalia’s overloaded prison capacity, the Government of Somalia has decided to move the bulk of the current serious crimes caseload and all future caseloads to the civilian criminal court system.

Reforming the Somali Penal Code

The protracted civil war and the weak state control over territory in Somalia has enabled new criminal activities to take hold, including illegal checkpoints, maritime piracy, cybercrimes, money laundering and counterfeiting, human trafficking, extortion, terrorist financing, and the smuggling of weapons and food over Somalia’s porous borders. The Somali Federal Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and national police are well aware of these newer forms of criminality plaguing Somalia, but are unable to effectively combat them.

Strengthening the link between formal justice and traditional dispute resolution

While showing steady progress, the formal justice system in Somalia remains fragile. Somalis continue to use traditional dispute resolution (TDR) mechanisms to resolve conflicts in their communities due to their physical accessibility, low cost and legitimacy in the eyes of local participants. The TDR system has the potential to improve access to justice in Somalia, but at the same time informal justice can reinforce forms of discrimination and support practices that do not comply with international human rights standards.

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Key Initiatives

  • In Somalia, alternative justice mechanisms remain the main providers of justice services for lack of formal justice institutions. However, these justice mechanisms can be discriminatory particularly against women, youth and minority clans.
  • Somalia is striving to strengthen its institutions and to improve the rule of law, however high levels of crime still persist. These include forms of complex crimes, namely extremist violence, organized crime, sexual and gender-based violence and corruption. In recent years, the Somali Federal Government has improved the fight against armed groups and made efforts to improve the capacity of the justice system to handle complex crimes.
  • Lack of access to a fair and equitable justice system is one of the most pressing problems confronting modern Somalia on its path towards stability and reconstruction. Rebuilding Somalia’s formal justice system is a highly challenging, complex, and long-term undertaking. In fact, there have not been any effective formal justice institutions in the country for over two decades.
  • In 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia took office with international backing after two decades of warfare. Since then, the government has developed a National Stabilization Strategy (NSS) to address enduring areas of conflict in the country with ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ reconciliation and clan-conflict reduction strategies. While commendable for its multifaceted response, there is a recognized need to improve rule of law at the community level.
  • An effective prosecution service is critical to the provision of justice, stability and peace in Somalia. But the absence of a robust, independent and competent prosecutorial service has contributed to a climate of impunity, increasing the proliferation of both low-level and serious crimes, including terrorism, corruption and gender-based violence throughout Somalia.
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