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Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification

As of early 2004, the judiciary in Somalia, like some of the other branches and institutions of government, is not fully functioning. The Constitution, which operated until 1991, guaranteed an independent judiciary. In September 1993, a re-establishment council was created to restore the judicial system. The body, located in Mogadishu, was created according to the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 865. Dr. Abd al-Rahman Haji Ga’al served as the chair of the Judiciary Re-establishment Council (JRC). In 1995 UN peacekeeping forces withdrew from the region. Following this, regions outside of Mogadishu returned to the traditions of Islamic law. In October 1996, a new Islamic judicial system was enacted with an Appellate Court. Judgments made in the local Islamic courts could be appealed to the Appellate Court, and no decision rendered in the Islamic courts could be enacted without Appellate Court ruling. In August 1998, the Governor of the Banaadir administration declared that Shari’a legal principles would govern the judicial system in Mogadishu and its environs. Somaliland’s constitution enshrines Shari’a as the foundation of the legal system.

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Judicial Structure and Court System

The following is a description of the judicial system as of 1991. At the base of the judicial structure were the Qadis or religious judges and District Courts. The former had civil jurisdiction and applied Islamic law. The 84 District Courts were subdivided into civil and criminal departments. The Civil Division was empowered to hear all cases in which the cause of action arose under Islamic law or customary law and all other minor civil matters. The eight Regional Courts had two sections, General and Assize. The two Courts of Appeal were located in Mogadishu and Hargeysa. The Supreme Court, located in Mogadishu, was the highest judicial authority and served as the final court of appeal for all civil, criminal, administrative, and auditing matters.

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Supreme Court

While there is no final judicial authority in Somalia as a whole, there are regional courts that exercise broad judicial powers. Somaliland has a Supreme Court that oversees the judiciary and has authority over elections. In Puntland, the Constitutional Court is empowered to mediate disputes regarding the constitutional authority of government officials.

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Special Bodies

In addition, there were several courts with specialized jurisdiction. The Military Supreme Court located in Mogadishu heard cases involving members of the armed forces. The National Security Court located in Mogadishu heard cases involving the internal and external security of the state.

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Judicial Education and Profession

The Somali National University was closed in early 1991. Since then, students seeking advanced degrees, including law degrees, have traveled outside of Somalia for education.

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