Information regarding consequences for conscientious objection. [SOM5587]

Although the Somali Constitution accords citizens the right to be formally charged and to a speedy trial, the criminal code was modified in 1970 to exempt crimes involving national security from the rules of procedure established by the country's legal system. Persons suspected of seditious intent, or perceived as a political threat, are frequently held indefinitely without being charged or brought to trial. Further, "detention by the security services may not be reviewed or overturned by the courts." [
Country Reports for Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U. S. Department of State, 1989, p.310.]

The National Security Law of 1970, in extending the range of the death penalty, brought up to 20 the number of offenses punishable by death. These include treason, espionage, subversion, sabotage, publishing and distributing anti-state propaganda, and several offenses including non-violent political, religious and trade union activities, for which prisoners of conscience could be, and have been executed." [ When The State Kills... The Death Penalty: A Human Rights Issue, (New York: Amnesty International USA, 1989), p.203.]

In August 1988, five cadets undergoing military training in Egypt were forcibly returned to Somalia after they had sought asylum from the UNHCR office in Cairo. They were arrested on arrival in Mogadishu and held in detention. One of the cadets reportedly died in detention and there has been no information about the other three from the Somali government [ibid. p.311.].

The president of the North Somali Association states that the Somali government does not distinguish between conscientious objection and desertion. It is difficult to determine the exact penalty for defection by military or civilian persons because the laws are not decreed, ie. they are not written down. Ms. C. Kurata, a Toronto lawyer, expresses the view that the security laws are ad-hoc and unevenly applied. This view is supported by Amnesty International which reports that the definition of offenses included in the National Security Law (Law No.54 of 10 September 1970) is "so broad that, in effect, arbitrary imprisonment is permitted." [Somalia: A Long-Term Human Rights Crisis, (London: Amnesty International Publications 1988), pp.22-23.] All political offenses, including public order offenses and serious criminal offenses, fall within the jurisdiction of the National Security Court. [ibid. p.24.]

Military offenses are tried by court-martial which allows defendants restricted rights to legal representation but not the right of appeal against the verdict of the National Security Court. [ When The State Kills...The Death Penalty: A Human Rights Issue, (New York: Amnesty International USA, 1989), p.203.] Convicted prisoners have the right to petition the head of State for clemency, as there is no automatic executive review of all death sentences. Amnesty International reports that "many death sentences have been carried out within hours of conviction, suggesting that the right to petition for clemency was ignored." [ibid.]

Amnesty International states that the Somali National Movement(SNM), draws most of its support from members of the Issaq clan. Its political leadership and guerilla commanders are mostly former Somali army officers of the Issaq clan. [ Amnesty International, Somalia: Imprisonment of members of the Issaq Clan since Mid-1988, (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1988), p.2] After the SNM attacks on Burao and Hargeisa in May 1988, the Somali government arrested many SNM members including Issaq army officers. [Ibid. pp.2-3.]

Some of those detained were released shortly after. However most of them are still imprisoned either in Godka, where political prisoners are routinely tortured, or in military custody in Mogadishu. Some political prisoners have been transferred to the maximum security prisons of Lanta Bur or Labaatan-Jirow as it is also known. [Africa Confidential, (London: Miramoor Publications Ltd.), 20 January 1989, pp. 2-3.]