By Yousef Timacade.

In recent years, the Somaliland National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has come under scrutiny for its alleged involvement in illegal detentions, posing a serious violation of both national laws and fundamental human rights principles. One particularly alarming incident involves the detention of a journalist who was subsequently tried in a military court. This event raises concerns not only about the NIA’s overreach but also the misuse of military courts, which should only preside over cases involving armed individuals committing crimes.

Somaliland’s Constitution is the supreme law of the land, providing a framework for governance and protection of citizens’ rights. Article 104 (The Courts and Procuracy of the Armed Forces) explicitly delineates the jurisdiction of military courts, stating that they are intended to try armed individuals for crimes related to their military service. The article emphasizes the importance of military courts operating within their designated jurisdiction and refraining from trying civilian cases.

The most concerning incident that highlights the NIA’s abuse of power involves the detention of a journalist, a civilian who should be subject to civilian legal processes. The journalist was not accused of any military-related offenses, yet the NIA chose to bypass the appropriate civilian courts and opted for a military trial.

The military court, as per the constitutional mandate, is designed to handle cases involving armed individuals committing crimes related to their military service. However, the reports for the year 2023 reveal that the military of Somaliland has not only intervened but also adjudicated over 20 civilian cases during that period. This blatant disregard for legal protocols and human rights standards is deeply troubling.

The detentions and subsequent trials of civilians in military courts are clear violations of fundamental human rights. The right to a fair trial, as enshrined in international human rights instruments, is being undermined by the NIA’s actions. A fair trial includes being judged by an impartial and competent tribunal, which military courts may not provide in cases unrelated to military service.

The Somaliland National Intelligence Agency’s continued disregard for the rule of law and human rights principles, as evidenced by the illegal detentions and trials in military courts, raises serious concerns. Corrective measures must be taken to restore trust in the country’s legal institutions and safeguard the rights of its citizens. The international community should closely monitor the situation, urging Somaliland authorities to address these issues promptly and uphold the principles of justice and human rights.

Yousef Timacade is a lawyer, legal analyst, and commentator. He has a master’s degree in law and executive management and has been working with national and international non-governmental organizations for the last ten years in the areas of program management, research, and human rights.