Somaliland Law : An Overview
Somaliland’s legal system reflects its history. The interplay of customary law, Islamic law and initially transplanted European-based statutory laws gave Somaliland a mixed legal system in which all these three strands not only vied for supremacy at various times and in different areas of life, but also carved respective niches in which each played a dominant role. In general, five distinct periods can be ascertained:
- The pre-protectorate era, when customary and Islamic law held sway.
- The protectorate years when the common law based British Ordinances governed formal and state related aspects of life but customary law and Islamic law governed family matters and the much of the life of the largely nomadic communities.
- The very short period of the independent sovereign State of Somaliland, which marked a short but distinct legal stage of Somaliland’s constitutional status and transitional governmental and judicial structures.
- The period of formal legal integration with Somalia, which lasted to October 1969, which saw considerable codification of the legal system primarily on the basis of Italian civil law rather than common law. Somaliland still enjoyed the 1960 allocation of parliamentary seats.
- The Somalian Dictatorship era 1970 to 1991, which saw the introduction of oppressive legislation passed through military/presidential decrees. There was some rolling back of aspects of both customary law and Islamic Law, such as the abolition of Dia (blood money) and the introduction of a Family Law. In its early years the major codification which started in the early 1960s was completed with the introduction of a Civil Code and a Civil Procedure Code, as well as a controversial Family Law, which has since fell into disuse.
- The Somaliland Republic era which started in 1991 and has seen a resurgence of customary and Islamic laws, but also the introduction of a constitution entrenching human rights and modern laws, specially in the area of democratisation.
For an overview of the main aspects of Somaliland law, please see GlobaLex Research Guide to the Somaliland Legal System compiled by Mohamed Farah Hersi LL. B, LL. M.
Somaliland Law Making Process:
- Summary of the Constitutional Provisions - Ibrahim Hashi Jama (January 2012)