Somaliland: “Interference of Traditional Law in Rape Cases now Illegal”


Says acting attorney General in a circular that makes interference by elders a crime

Deputy AG Aden Muse

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – In a bid to curb the increasing rape cases in the country the office of the attorney General has banned intervention of traditional leaders.

In a circular dispatched to all courts in the country the deputy cum acting Attorney General Aden Ahmed Muse informed that all rape cases presented to the courts shall pass the legal process only.

Said he, “any traditional leader or elder trying to interfere with demands to settle out of court should be treated as a criminal” According to the sexual assault referral office of Somaliland’s Ministry of health Last year saw 195 rape cases reported to the police, 67 out of that number were children under the age of ten and 19 years old boy.

The AG who attributed the banning of traditional law as part and parcel of resolving raping issues to the escalation of this type of Gender based violence said that the most worrying aspect is the prevalence of hitherto unheard of cases of gang rapes that see a woman being sexual assaulted by over ten men.

Stop Violence against women“We at the judiciary shall in partnership with the police ensure that the spiraling instances of rapes in the country are brought to an end by first eliminating the meddling of traditional law and passing stiff sentences to accused.

Recently 20 youths among them 2 Canadians of summer vacation in the country were sentenced to long prison terms after they were found guilty in the bizarre case of they, accused, having gang rasped two young ladies in Hargeisa.

The extent of rape in Somaliland remains difficult to measure, with most cases going unreported or being resolved between families.

While rape is punishable with a jail term of five to 15 years in Somaliland, cases are often settled outside the courts by traditional leaders, with perpetrators typically paying compensation or marrying the victim.

“One of the problems that we are now facing is the traditional way of solving [rape cases]. For example, the families of the victim and the perpetrator may agree before a public notary and demand that the court release the perpetrator. And the public prosecutor can do nothing because the victim is here and she is telling the court that she has stopped the case against the perpetrator.”

Explaining the payment of fines by perpetrators, Muse said: “Sometimes, the perpetrators are sentenced to a term less than the term in the penal code, after the judge considers how the rape case took place and the circumstances. For example, a perpetrator may be sentenced to five years. He may stay in prison for two-and-a-half years and later he may apply to buy the remaining [time]… The fine equivalent for one year in prison [for a rape charge] is 2,740,500 Somaliland shillings [about US$421.61]. But we have now stopped this completely and perpetrators shall face the law accordingly,” he said.

“We stopped [granting] bail to the perpetrators of rape. We have even proposed to the parliament to pass a law [to] increase the punishment for rape [to] include the death penalty,” said Mouse.

As the AG was circulating his orders the minister of interior Ali Waran’ade who informed that the 27th of September of 2013 saw eight rape cases reported to the police said that the government is set on putting an end to this malady which despite being new is gaining ground in Somaliland.

While informing that the escalation of Gender based Violence is directly connected to elders whose solution is payment of collection of a few heads of livestock or cash in damages as the only punishment for offenders said that any elder trying to interfere in any reported case shall be charged in a court of law as an accomplice.

According to Abdi Abdilahi Hassan, the director of social affairs in Somaliland’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs while “There is no data of gender-based violence rates in Somaliland,” Records at the Sexual Assaults Referral Centre (SARC), also known as Baahi-Koob, of the Hargeisa Group Hospital in Somaliland’s capital, also indicate a rising trend estimate that about 5,000 rape cases may have taken place in Somaliland in 2012, compared to 4,000 cases in 2011.

As Rape carries a lot of stigma among Somalis and victims often do not have the courage to report the crime, kit is possible that the numbers are much higher than currently believed thence a need to intensify surveillance thus eliminate the instances that not only see the perpetrator go free but the return of known cases where the victim is given as bride to perpetrator.

According to the Sexual Assaults Referral Centre (SARC) local traditions are biased towards a woman victim of GBV thus difficult for the girl to immediately report the rape if she does not have severe injuries

Meanwhile At a briefing to parliament on 25th march this year the police commissioner Brigadier Abdilahi Fadal revealed that cases of murder, rape and gender based violence have reduced significantly after the police force intensified counter measures especially the training on human rights imparted to all Officers in charge of police stations and the judiciary apportioning stiff sentences to offenders.

Gen Fadal claims reduction of rapes in the countryAs he was telling this to parliamentarians on of his officers informed with the criminal investigations department, who preferred anonymity, had this to say: “As the police, it is our duty to catch [criminals] and send them to trial, including the rape assault cases. But of course sometimes police officials accept it when the two sides [the victim and the perpetrator] agree to solve the case between them.”

As the administration and judiciary wakes up to this malady mostly perpetrated by youthful gangs who are also known to be behind petty thievery abounding in especially within estates of major towns at night various women leaders and groups had been raising a hue and cry for a long time.

The chairperson of Somaliland’s National Human Rights Commission (SLNC), Fathia Hussein Jahur, called for a greater role by the formal justice system.

“The human rights commission has already made contact with the chief justice, the attorney general and the police commander to stop the interventions of the elders. We believe that if the defendants face punishment for their crimes, rape will decrease,” said Jahur.

In an April workshop, traditional leaders, the police and judges agreed to establish stiffer penalties for rape stop traditional resolution mechanisms and increase public awareness about the effects of sexual violence, she said.

As Women from all parts of the country commemorated the 2013 international women’s day-IWD held on the 8th of March in the capital city a unanimous agreement that Gender based violence must come to an end.

In line with the 2013 international women’ day motto the assembly of women pledged to ensure that Gender Based The first lady Amina Weris 5th Left poses with participants at the IWD function/fileViolence-GBV is brought to a stop at all levels while seeing to it that victims are provided with necessary psychosocial support and relevant welfare.

As a means to alleviating GBV the women concurred on the stiff punishment for offenders which is to be made possible by vigorous lobby for security personnel to enforce necessary laws.

A similar function at the Awdal regional capital of Borame saw women suffering from mental illnesses receive beddings and other household goods that were meant to help rehabilitate them.