CAMPAIGN FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE EXTRA-JUDICIAL ACTIVITIES OF SOMALILAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
(OLALAHA TIRTIRRIDDA AWOODAHA GARSOORKA AY MAROORSADEYN GUDDIYADA NABADGELYADDA)
Many Somaliland civil organisations, both at home and abroad have been campaigning for a long time to convince the Somaliland Government to end the extra-judicial powers exercised by administrative regional and district security committees staffed by public employees, which often send citizens to prison without due process of law. The Diaspora based Somaliland Forum and many other Somaliland civil groups, as well as the Somaliland opposition poilitical parties have, over the years, called for the abolition of these committees or at least the ending of their extra-judicial activities. Somaliland has fully functioning courts of law and the extra-judicial powers of these committees go back to the dictatorship era of the 1980s and 1990s and have no place in the constitutional democracy of Somaliland.
The illegality of the actions of these committees has been explained in the numerous submissions and press releases recorded in this page. Many recommendations have been made to the Somaliland President, who has the power to stop these practices immediately, and to the parliament and the courts. The Somaliland House of Representatives passed resolutions and a bill (the Organisation of the Judiciary Bill) which declare the actions of these committees unconstitutional and unlawful, yet as recently as April 2007, 24 butchers demonstarting against the decisions of the Hargeisa Mayor relating to abbattoir fees were sent to prison by the Hargeysa Regional Security Committee without any trial or legal representation. The fact that the Mayor was himself a member of the Security Committee speaks volumes about how objectionable the actions of these committees are to all tenets of natural justice. It has been reported that, at any time, hundreds of persons who are in detention at the Somaliland prisons and police stations are there on the orders of or sentences passed by the members of these Security Committees and have never been taken to a court of law.
It appears also that these Committees often go into action when citizens may be exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of assembly. There are ample provision in the Penal Code for dealing with public order offences and the point is that anyone who contravenes the law should be arrested according to the law and dealt with by a court of law. No one is criticising the important work that public officials undertake in safeguarding peace and security and any committees formed to strengthen this role are very much needed and have the support of the Somaliland people, but there is no need for any administrative committees sending citizens to jail when there are courts of law that can deal with any crimes.
Besides depriving citizens of their liberties without due process of law, the continuing activities of these Committees have coloured the people’s views about the Somaliland justice system and have damaged the standing of Somaliland. The message of this campaign is simple: These practices must stop, right now.
Every member of these Security Committees who participates in a decision to send an individual to prison without due process of law is being reminded of his individual responsibility. Public officials who continue to contravene the provisions of the Constitution and the criminal laws of the land with impunity are reminded that the time will come when they will be held to account for the offences they have committed agianst their own citizens. Somaliland is entering an election year and all candidates and political parties will be asked by the public on where they stand on this issue.