A man accused of murder in Somaliland and sentenced to death by firing squad has been set free. The victim was able to secure his freedom after his family reached an agreement to pay a compensation of 100 camels to buy back his life.
According to reports, camels are prized assets in the Somali culture, and a sizable number of camels can be used to buy a man’s life when the need arises.
The unnamed man was among five convicts set to be executed in the Madheera area, northeast of Hargesia, the capital of the self-declared Somaliland Republic. However, he was spared from death by firing squad after a last-minute agreement to pay 100 camels as compensation.
A few minutes before the commencement of the firing squad, the man who was already tied to a stake like the other convicts was untied and released by elders from the families of both the murderer and the victim. The other four convicts, who were facing a firing squad for separate murder charges, were shot dead after the released man was removed from their midst.
Although the news of the last-minute freedom in exchange for the camels had come as news to many across the globe, locals say that such interventions at execution sites are not uncommon in Somaliland.
According to the traditional justice system, which is still in effect in Somaliland to date, the lawful compensation for murder is 100 camels. There are claims that camels can be substituted for money, as there has been a scarcity of camels and other priced livestock in the area for some years now. It is believed that the family of the man in question paid the monetary equivalent of 100 camels in this case.
The parallel traditional judicial system operates alongside a formal court process that complements or sometimes replaces it entirely.
However, despite its proposed traditional backing, the news has been received with criticism from many quarters. Critics argue that such a law should be scrapped because it gives leverage to individuals from wealthy families to escape consequences for hideous crimes such as murder.
This would not be the first time that such news has made headlines. In February 2020, there was a report of a Somali rapist and murderer who paid a ransom of 75 camels to escape death after he was convicted of being killed by a firing squad.
The news of the release of the Somali man on death row for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl after he paid 75 camels sparked outrage across the continent and globally. Critics and human rights activists said that the law undermined efforts to curb gender violence worldwide. They also argued that it promotes a culture of impunity in the east African nation.
In that instance, the victim – a 12-year-old Aisha Ilyes Aden, was abducted from a market in northern Puntland’s Galkayo town in 2019. She was then gang-raped and strangled to death and her genitals mutilated.
Three men were sentenced to death for the crimes according to a 2016 sexual offenses law in the semi-autonomous Puntland region.
However, the firing squad executed only two of the three men. The execution of the third man, named Abdisalan Abdirahman, was delayed, and he would later be set free after he paid the ransom of 75 camels for his life. It is believed that the man was spared after he reached an agreement to pay the family 75 camels in exchange for the young girl – who was raped, murdered, and mutilated.
“I am upset at how the third man was left out. In Puntland, and in Somalia in general, rape victims don’t get justice due to the involvement of traditional leaders,” Ubah Mohamed, a representative from the Somalia Gender Hub, a women’s rights advocacy group, had told newsmen.
“I am against such matters being handled through customary laws and traditions. This is a major problem in our judicial system and it undermines the rights of women and girls.”
Although the conviction of the three men was applauded because many traditional circles like Somaliland do not decriminalize rape, the release of the third man attracted global criticism. But with the new reports, it appears that not much has been done to eradicate the old laws.
What is even more surprising for many critics is how such news does not make its way to the mainstream media, where it can attract global intervention. What are your thoughts?