Blood Money and Puntland Justice System

Garowe ( PPM) — Hybrid justice system of Somalia allows for the payment of blood money ( mag ) in line with the Islamic jurisprudence. Blood money is obligatory when a person causes the death of someone but the choice to accept or not to accept blood money belongs to the family of the deceased person to be able to spare the convicted person from execution.

In Puntland, as in many parts of Somalia, blood money is key element of legal remedies. Tradition, bad governance and effects of state collapse leave blood money aspect of the civil law open to abuse.  Tradition dictates that a portion of the blood money be distributed to members of the subclan, who would contribute to raising blood money (usually donating camels) when a member of the subclan is convicted of murder. This practice is waning. Religious leaders liken it to theft of the belongings of the victim’s family. Where religious leaders make less discursive contribution is the asymmetrical clan power and wealth disparity in society make blood money  put families of victims at disadvantage.

A poor or minority family may give in to the pressure to accept blood-money.  A family’s right to exercise the choice to accept blood money or to have the convicted murderer executed by the State exists in a context where neither the State nor the clergy boasts an absolute coercive power.

In some areas where asymmetrical clan power does not exist (i.e. people of the same social group live in a district, for example), the family of the person convicted of murder weigh payment of blood money on its impact on family wealth and the specific circumstances leading to the murder and the possibility that the convicted murder may commit murder again.

A recent case in Lasanod  offers a contrasting but encouraging lesson  about  blood money. The family of man who killed another man fled to South Galka’yo. The family of the suspect liaised with Galmudug authorities, who handed the suspect over to the family. The suspect confessed to the murder. He was handed over to the family of the deceased man, who asked for blood-money. Where the rule of law is weak blood money does not stop feuding or re-offending.

Puntland justice system heavily depends on customary law, the Somali Penal Code and Sharia. Of these tree elements the customary law enjoys primacy. but its system is more transparent than the Federal Government justice system: the soldier who shot a minister dead and people who killed and burned a man’s body have yet to be convicted of the crime for fear of clan backlash.

In 2003 PDRC raised questions about a justice system reliant upon clan quotas when employing judges. It is Puntland State addressed the hybrid justice system that serves interests of the powerful.      

© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020

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