Somaliland:Justice in Somaliland: Investigation of War Crimes


Joining the EPAF mission to investigate and document human rights violations in Hargeisa Somaliland

Hargeisa(Somalilandsun) – My name is Matthew K. Toyama and I will be joining the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF) as a foreign student assisting in the investigation and documentation of human rights abuses committed under the Siad Barre regime in Hargeisa, Somaliland this March 2015–I need your support to assist me in this work.

BACKGROUND: In countries where grave human rights violations have taken place, and the transition from totalitarian regime to political and economic development is underway, preserving memory is paramount to writing history and for building and rebuilding nations. In post conflict situations facing many countries of the Global South, “it is important that countries have the capacity to investigate their own dead. It is a new form of doing justice.” (José Pablo Baraybar, Executive Director of EPAF)
This need exists in the Horn of Africa, as Somaliland seeks to establish itself since its independence from the Republic of Somalia in 1991 and the end of the Siad Barre dictatorship which left estimates of 60,000 civilians dead, many from massacres and bombings of the city of Hargeisa. In the words of Executive Director Baraybar, “Hargeisa is a graveyard. Some say there are 200,000 bodies under the ground. Others say 60,000. Nobody really knows. That’s why we have to get the record straight.”
THE WORK: EPAF provides international forensic training programs to assist prosecutors, human rights defenders and civil society actors to investigate and document evidence of human rights violations. Since 2013, EPAF has employed its program in Somaliland through its Field Schools to accomplish:
1. The determination of the universe of missing people through a systematic approach including ante mortem data collection, research of mass graves and analysis of human remains, and the eventual return of human remains to relatives and communities of victims in Hargeisa;
2. The improvement of the skills and competencies of the War Crimes Investigation Commission (WCIC) of Somaliland ( staff investigating the human rights violations, with the help of foreign students;
3. The enrichment of the professional experience of foreign students in the field of forensic anthropological research;
4. And the eventual prosecution of some of the cases analyzed by EPAF and students, pending the decision of the government and the people of Somaliland, through the WCIC.
*See below for more information on the history of Somalia under the rule of Siad Barre and the work of EPAF.
ABOUT ME: I am a May 2014 graduate of Santa Clara University School of Law in CA, USA earning a J.D. as a Public International Law Scholar with Honors. My experience in the international legal field includes work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2012 and with the international human rights litigation non-profit organization, Center for Justice and Accountability (San Francisco, CA) in 2013, which is a sponsor and partner of EPAF ( I have also worked with the Stanford Human Rights Center as a research assistant to Professor James Cavallaro serving as a Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I have been published in international legal academia with an article concerning the future of human rights litigation in the U.S. in the Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law (July 2014).
–> Program costs (incl. accommodations/meals/administrative fees of Somaliland government): $4000 USD
–> Airfare: Estimated $1500-1900 USD
* I will be paying for the majority of this, however I am grateful for any support I receive and will be using it towards offsetting the costs of airfare and the program, even if the stated funding goal is not met.

–> I intend to write a scholarly article concerning the relationship of the preservation of memory, the historical record and the state of international human rights law, or a thesis in progress. Contributors will receive any published copies at no charge and potentially a note of gratitude in the work.
–> Entrance ticket to the afterlife of worldview of choice per each contributor of this campaign, plus reception of the divine grace which accompanies knowledge of oneself as an indefatigably “good person”
–> Also, if desired by contributors, I will monitor progress of the work through a picture blog.
*Siad Barre: General Mohammed Siad Barre was the military dictator and President of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969-1991.

During the effort to institute socialist government in Somalia following a coup d’état in 1969, part of the Barre-led military junta’s reign was characterized by oppressive dictatorial rule, including allegations of arbitrary arrests and summary killings of resistant Somalis in urban and rural nomad populations and the oppression and torture of political opponents and dissidents. The United Nations Development Programme has stated that “the 21-year regime of Siyad Barre had one of the worst human rights records in Africa.”
In the mid-1980s, in response to resistance movements, especially the Somali National Movement (SNM) in northern Somaliland, Barre ordered punitive measures including mass executions and the bombing of cities, including administrative centers of Hargeisa among the targeted areas in 1988. The bombardment resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50,000 people.
To date, a small number of former members of the Siad Barre regime now residing in the United States have been successfully sued in U.S. federal court, including: the first human rights case to address atrocities under the Siad Barre regime, against former Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Mohamed Ali Samantar (Yousuf v. Samantar); Warfaa v. Ali, against notorious war criminal Colonel Yusuf Abdi Ali (aka Tukeh); and most recently, Ahmed v. Magan, against former Chief of Investigations of the infamous National Security Service (NSS) Abdi Aden Magan. (See
*EPAF: The forensic experts of Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense teach participant states how to use locally available materials to:
conduct ante mortem interviews to collect information about a crime and construct detailed profiles of the victims; identify, document, and recover evidence from a crime scene while maintaining the chain of custody; conduct forensic investigations according to international standards, following protocols detailed in the training manual; and make valid interpretations of evidence that can be presented in the form of a forensic report.
Its training program is built on a model of South-South cooperation that allows EPAF to share experiences with its international partners while offering low-tech solutions to problems frequently encountered in the developing world. As a result, participants in EPAF training programs acquire a sustainable, pragmatic approach to forensic investigations that can be easily replicated, even in the most isolated regions.
To date, EPAF’s training program has increased the investigative capacity of counterparts in Peru, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, the Philippines, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. EPAF has most recently used this model to assess and train the regional staff of the Commission on Human Rights for the Philippines and strengthen their capacity to investigate cases of forced disappearances; train Congolese police officers to investigate mass grave sites in the war-torn province of North Kivu; prepare Nepalese human rights investigators to uncover cases of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings from the country’s recently concluded internal armed conflict.