Monday, June 18, 2018
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The Supreme Court of Somalia must be reformed

By Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D

President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmaajo during recent public event in Mogadishu celebrating the 100-day of his government forcefully stated that the government would focus on corruption and fighting the injustice enshrined in the judiciary of Somalia.

In Somalia, problems of judicial corruption currently undermine the credibility and independence of the judiciary, jeopardizing the restoration of the rule of law. These issues further challenge effective delivery of justice services in the country, including the general insecurity, and the existence of informal justice system. Judicial corruption encourages parallel judiciary in Somalia, leading to citizens turning to their clan’s and sub-clan’s as well as al-Shabaab to resolve their legal cases.

President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Kheyre expressed concerns about corruption in Somalia, particularly within the judiciary. During the 100-day celebration speech, President Farmaajo vowed to use his constitutional powers to go after judicial corruption in 90-days.

President Farmaajo said, “Judicial corruption paves the way for insecurity.” And stated, “If we want rule of law, corrupt judges must be brought to justice.”  He also said, “we must ensure the transparency and reliability of delivery of justice in Somalia.” vowing to arrest and jail corrupt judges.

Mr. President, you should look no further than the actions of the current chief justice of the Supreme Court Ibrahim Lidle Suleiman and the actions of former Justice Aidid Abdullahi Ilka Hanaf. The current and former Chief Justices have misused their positions, receiving between $50,000 – $100,000 in bribes per case to rig cases, according to credible sources.

Justice Suleiman working with corrupt officials as recently as this week was involved in lands a property disputes, rigging cases in favor for individuals who paid bribes. These claimants in many cases were not the actual owners, but part of corrupt gangs blackmailing the rightful property owners to pay as high as 50% of value of the property.

In recent case, former chief justice Ilka Hanaf, paid the current Chief Justice Suleiman to rule in favor of a property dispute case, where Ilka Hanaf’s was overturned by the Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir, who after almost six months of investigation determined the claimants had no case, and their documents were forgery. In that case the Attorney General’s office issued arrest warrant and the Somali Police Force (SPF) arrested the claimants. The claimants were bailed and have since fled Mogadishu and are still wanted by the police. This and many other cases like it highlight the entrenched corruption in the judiciary and especially at the Supreme Court, where justice is bought and sold.

The president recent declaration is encouraging. However, more is needed in order tackle the judicial corruption. Of many threats to Somalia’s security and economic development, the widespread judicial corruption and the failure to follow rule of law represents a challenge.

Judicial corruption and graft in the government has undermined the integrity of previous Somali Federal Government’s. Judicial corruption has contributed to the lawless state of affairs in many parts of Somalia, forcing clans and sub-clans develop parallel legal system to resolve disputes. The failure of the justice system and the failure to follow the rule of law has fueled insurgency in many parts of the country and created a void in governance.

President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmaajo and Prime Minister Hassan Ai Kheyre should start the process reforming the judicial system and the rule of law. Judicial corruption undermines the effectiveness and legitimacy of the new government institutions. Although judicial corruption cannot be eliminated overnight, the government can significantly reduce in judicial accountability, enhancing the legitimacy of the government. Policy option for the president Include:

  • Replace the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and open investigation to all of his cases.
  • Appoint qualified and competent judges who strive for the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
  • Establish task force at the Office of the Attorney General to investigate judicial corruption and clean up the judiciary.
  • Establish Independent Inspector General Office at the Ministry of Justice to review judicial decision and submit case-by-case review to the office of the president.
  • Create independent commission to lead judicial and rule of law reforms.
  • Submit Judiciary Accountability Law to the parliament that will punish corrupt judges and officers with jail time, a monetary fine and forfeiture of all assets.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D.

Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim is a former senior UN staff.


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