Judicial service in Somaliland
The hierarchy and structure of Somaliland courts are based on the two principal sources of which empower and delineate the judicial structure being 1) Somaliland Constitution, Chapter four, and 2) and the Organization of the Judiciary Law No. 24/2003. There are several different types of courts and each court serves a different function.
- District Courts and Regional Courts (Referred to as First instance courts/start of the case courts),
- The Appeal Courts, and
- The Supreme Court (Also referred to as the Constitutional Court)
Jurisdictions of the District Court:
The District Court deals with all claims based on Islamic Sharia such as the cases relating to family law and succession, civil litigations concerning suits for amounts up to SL Shillings 3,000,000, and cases of minor injuries, and/or criminal cases punishable to imprisonment of up to 3 years or fines of up to SL Shillings 3,000,000. This court is presided over by a District Judge. Jurisdiction of the District Court comes under the jurisdiction of the Regional Court.
Jurisdictions of the Regional Court:
The Regional Court deals with all civil litigation and all criminal cases which do not fall within the jurisdiction of the District Court as stated above. The General Section of this court deals with crimes punishable to imprisonment for periods between 3 and 10 years which are heard by a Regional Judge; and the Assize Section deals with cases of higher prison sentences which are heard by a Regional Judge and an Assessor who has knowledge of Islamic Sharia. This Court also deals with all claims pertaining to labor or employment law, and any claims that may arise out of local government elections. According to Articles 7 and 38 of the Organisation of the Judiciary Law, and the panel of assessors, it is compiled every year by the Ministry of Justice. The Regional Court is divided into four branches: civil, criminal, finance and taxation, and juvenile. The President of the Regional Court hears juvenile cases, which come under the jurisdiction of the Regional Court.
The Appeals Courts deals with all appeals from the District and Regional Courts, and each Appeals Court is divided into 1) the Assize Appellate Section which deals with appeals from the Regional Assize Court, which are heard by two Appeals Judges and two assessors, 2) the Juvenile Section, 3) the Finance & Taxation Section, and 4) the General Appellate Section, which deals with all other civil and criminal appeals. The President of the Appeals Court in each region acts as the head of the judiciary in that region.
NOTE. An appeal can be taken from judgements of District and Regional Courts to the Appeals Court and from the Appeals Court to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court (and the Constitutional Court):
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial organ in the country, and is comprised of the chairman and at least four judges, and it deals with 1) All appeals from the Appeals Courts, 2) Jurisdictional issues between the courts of the land, 3) Administrative suits relating to the final decisions of public bodies, 4) Declarations of general election results (both presidential and parliamentary); and decisions on any complaints relating to such elections; as well as appeals from lower courts’ decisions regarding complaints relating to local government elections; and 5) Reviews of its own decisions under the relevant Articles of the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedures (Articles 266 & 238 respectively). As under Article 12 of the Organization of Judiciary Law, the Supreme Court comprises of the sections 1) Civil section, 2) Criminal section, 3) Juvenile crime section, 4) Administrative section, and 5) Research & legal interpretation section.
Procedure for submitting civil litigation case:
- Make sure you are starting the case at the right court jurisdiction;
- The defendant should be resident or stays in the respective district/region;
- Make your application three copies and submit to the court;
- A copy of the application stamped as for receiving will be returned to you;
- The amount of money or value of other property you are claiming will be taxed 2.5%;
- The case file will be opened and numbered;
- A judge will assigned to lead the case and a summon will be sent to the defendant through a messenger of the court informing him/her to come before the court;
- The defendant will be handed a copy of the case, and he/she has seven days or as per instruction of the judge to answer the accusation;
- You will be informed of the answer;
- The judge will schedule and ask if you have lawyers;
- The debate starts on the set schedule. Any related evidences of written testimonies can be submitted, and persons of witnesses available can be called on the date scheduled;
- Swearing of the Name of Allah is conditional to both parties – the plaintiff and the defendant, and their witnesses if any. After swear, each party’s witness should speak at the presence of the other party, and both sides can ask questions;
- Either party wins the judgment is liable and charged to pay all expenses the other party spent on the process and for the sake of the case such as taxes paid, fees used for the lawyer aid etc;
- If there is previously entered agreement made by a Notary Public, then you do not need to open a case but instead request enforcement (Fulin) from the respective court;
- If you are financially able, it is good for you to hire a lawyer. The person affordable financially can hire a professional lawyer;
- The Government assigns lawyers only to vital crimes;
- 5% tax of the value of money or other property of claim should paid to the Government, but postponement of the tax on successions is acceptable until conclusion of the case;
- Everyone can ask for delay and it depends on the decision of the judge
- Only mature persons of older than 15 years can represent themselves at courts of law while the parent can represent their children under the mature age;
Institutions of the police including the Criminal Investigating Department, and the Authorney General are called the Investigating Institutions and should be immediaTelly contacted for all criminal cases, whether personal or national crime. Some crimes may need you to request a warrant of arrest from the Court through the National Authorney General.
The Judicial Committee Members:
According to the Somaliland Constitution, judicial committee members consist of 11 members as follows:-
- Four Members of Parliaments elected from the Upper and Lower Houses of the Parliament (Council of the Representatives, and the Council of Elders/Guurti), office tenure is two years;
- The National Authorney General;
- Chairman of the Civil Service Commission;
- Director General of the Ministry of Justice;
- Chairman of the Supreme Court, becomes Chairman of the Committee;
- Two members of the Supreme Court, senior in profession;
- Admin/finance Director of the Supreme Court, becomes Secretary of the Committee;
Dealing with Lawsuit against a Judge:
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Sharia Law Services and Claims of Succession in Somaliland:
According to Somaliland Judiciary Law, all matters relating to family and personal issues such as marriage, divorce and succession etc are dealt in accordance with Islamic principles/Sharia (Shaafici). The District Courts have jurisdiction with the Islamic law issues including the cases of succession or inheritance, but also vast majority of these issues are also dealt with outside the courts. There are authorized Sharia Law Associations (Informal Sharia Courts) registered by the Ministry of Justice who are run by members of prominent religious persons, and educated people qualified in the Islamic Sharia law. These Sharia Law Associations exist to ease and facilitate services and needs of the citizens in the most issues to which Islamic Law is relevant including inheritance of properties. Usually, people prefer these Informal Sharia Courts because of the eminent and experienced Sharia law Scholars serving them thought they have not any authority to executive the judgment on any of the cases. It is also an opportunity for the person as there is no taxation over the property for succession.
Procedure for succession of property in Somaliland:
The inheritable property can be fixed assets such as buildings, and land, and no-fixed/movable belongings, or assets such as livestock, vehicles, money in cash or in bank, etc. As an Islamic State, properties are inherited in accordance with the Holly Koran, and the Islamic Sharia Law.
- Successors/inheritors must assign an independent Evaluating Committee of few persons they have trust in, and give them full authorization mandate signed by all the inhering members issued by Public Notary. At this first stage, some elders of the successors shall sign to witness the inheritors have authorized and assigned the Estimating Committee to estimate the property to be inherited;
- The Evaluating Committee will assess and estimate normal value of the property in its different types, and will agree to price the property in central or middle prices;
- The Evaluating Committee will forward the final result to the inheritors;
- The successors will agree, and sometimes may reject though it is not legal to reject a decision reached by an authorized party. If they reject, they will either appoint another committee or the existing Informal Sharia Courts who will mediate them, or the District Court who deal with all claims based on Sharia
- With their consent, the successors have to submit the inherited Property Report to the Ministry of Justice or to one of the Informal Sharia Courts who are authorized to provide the Sharia related services in representation of the Ministry of Justice. At this stage, the inheritors must bring their elders men who are to know sign and witness every step of the process;
- The Informal Sharia Courts referring to the Inherited Property Report, and making verification of the process, will then divide the property according to the Holly Koran, and Islamic Sharia. The Sharia Office will officially state the share each successor received from the total property inherited, and will give a copy to every member of the inheritors. At this stage, all the members of successors must be available and present. In case, any of them is absent due to known reason, then there should be an authorized person as representative of him/her in the inheritance;
- NOTE: if the successors prefer the District Court other than those Informal Sharia Courts, they will be liable to pay 1% tax on the property they are inheriting while request of delaying tax is permissible.
Sharia Law Services in Hargeisa & Service Fees:
The Sharia Law Associations (Informal Islamic Courts) based in Hargeisa and run by members of the prominent religious scholars include TAWFIIQ, AL-MIISAAN, TAWAKAL, and AL-MADINA. There is no standard fee for the succession services of those Informal Sharia Courts, but they vary, and thus are negotiable. Some of them charge 2% or more fees out of the total property value.
Public Notary Service License:
- According to Article 1 of Somaliland Public Notary Law No, Office of the Public Notary is meant the office mandated to provide the following legal services:-
- Transfers of fixed and non-fixed properties;
- Make letters of power authorizations;
- Make legal testimonials;
- Make legal agreements;
- Make wills;
- Make ownership documents, and other services the law confirms;
- This office registered by the Ministry of Justice has legal personality, and performs its duties;
- The Public Notary Officer is an agent of the Ministry of Justice;
- The Public Notary can translate documents if it has related license from the Ministry of Justice;
- According to Article 2 of the Somaliland Public Notary Law, requirements for the officer holding this office must be a citizen who has knowledge of law, and holding law qualification, or have five years experience he/she worked for the judicial legal organizations or the judiciary:
- Must be a citizen of Somaliland;
- Must be not younger than 30 years of age;
- Must be mentally fit;
- Must have office space suitable to do service.
- According to Article 17 of Somaliland Public Notary Law, people who are not allowed or exempted from obtaining Notary Public License are the following:-
- A person who is member of the civil service (Government employee);
- A person belonging to the Government Forces and;
- The person working for International NGOs.
- According to Article 9 of this law, Public Notary Officer is responsible for:-
- Decriminalizes impartially (Makes legal) documents of transactions which parties write and agree between them independently, and records their agreements;
- Legalizes or registers a document with legal authority which two parties independently entered between them as conforming to the laws;
- Makes transfers of fixed and non-fixed properties while the properties transferred and the process of transferring are conforming with the Sharia and the laws of the country;
- Makes testimonials of the absent witnesses;
- Makes or approves wills in accordance with the law;
- He/she can do any other duties as may be assigned to him/her by the courts
- According to Article 10 of this law, the Public Notary Document must be original, written in good readable ink and must not have blank space.
Learn Somaliland Laws Online:
The Website www.somalilandlaw.com is the most resourceful and the largest legal resources of Somaliland. This site disseminates information of Constitution and laws of the Republic of Somaliland. Full texts of the Constitution and some of the main governing laws of the country both in English and Somali versions as well as news of constitutional and legal related developments, commentaries and scholarly articles in Somaliland. This is incredibly unique site contributing to the advancement of the Somaliland legal system, and enrichment of democracy and rule of law in Somaliland. For all enquires and comments, please contact Mr. Ibrahim Hashi Jama LL.B, LL.M, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org who greatly contributed to the Somaliland legal system development.