Country Listing

Somalia Table of Contents



Over the centuries, the Somalis developed a system of handling disputes or acts of violence, including homicide, as wrongs involving not only the parties immediately concerned but also the clans to which they belonged. The offending party and his group would pay diya to the injured party and his clan. The British and Italians enforced criminal codes based on their own judicial systems in their respective colonies, but did not seriously disrupt the diya-paying system.

After independence the Somali government developed its own laws and procedures, which were largely based on British and Italian legal codes. Somali officials made no attempt to develop a uniquely Somali criminal justice system, although diya- paying arrangements continued.

The military junta that seized power in 1969 changed little of the criminal justice system it inherited. However, the government launched a campaign against diya and the concept of collective responsibility for crimes. This concept is the most distinctly Somali of any in the criminal justice system. The regime instead concentrated on extending the influence of laws introduced by the British and Italians. This increased the government's control over an area of national life previously regulated largely by custom.