How to Navigate the Legal System

How to Navigate the Legal System

This section aims to provide an outline of the Somaliland legal system, detailing the structure of the judiciary, means of accessing justice and legal aid, and where to find relevant and upcoming legislation.

The Judiciary

The Somaliland National Charter 1993 re-established the laws governing the organisation of the Judiciary, adopting the pre-1969 laws rather than the laws from the Somalian dictatorship. The Judiciary is the system of courts that interpret and apply the law of the given territory and has full autonomy and ability of enforcement over judicial laws and regulations. Judges have the authority to adjudicate on any matter of injustice, and only the Supreme Court can reverse decisions of the courts. Courts must be competent and rule without prejudice, and everyone arrested has the right to be brought before the court within 48 hours. Further information on the rules and obligations governing the judiciary and rights of those before the courts can be found in Section 5 of the National Charter.

Access to Justice

The main barrier to accessing justice in Somaliland has been identified as poverty, with poor knowledge among uneducated citizens and limited availability of legal aid following closely. Somaliland is a place of legal pluralism, with customary, religious, and statutory legal institutions coexisting and overlapping. Studies by the Access to Justice Program have shown that whilst Customary Institutions are the most affordable, Sharia Courts the fairest and least tainted by corruption. The Hargeisa University Legal Aid Clinic is also available as a source of free legal aid to those who cannot afford to pay legal fees elsewhere in pursuit of equal protection under the law.

Where to Find Your Rights

The general principles governing equality of citizens in Somaliland and their fundamental rights and freedoms can be found in Chapter 1 Parts 2 and 3 of the Somaliland Constitution as well as in Section 3, Article 8 of the National Charter. International human rights obligations that are applicable to the citizens of Somaliland can also be found in the Somaliland Human Rights Network (SHURO) page.

How to File a Human Rights Complaint at National Level

The Somaliland National Human Rights Commission (SLNHRC) is a statutory body that was created by Parliament in 2010 has the power to file a complaint on behalf of any citizen who feels that their human rights have been abused and conduct an independent investigation. Such complaints can be submitted in writing via email or letter directly to the Commission’s Complaint Management Office by the victim or another person who is aware of such abuses. The management of these complaints is then handled in accordance with the National Human Rights Commission Act (Law No. 39/2010) where complaints are submitted to relevant government and local authorities. The SLNHRC has not yet specified a required format for the submission of a complaint, but more information can be accessed by contacting them directly through the contact details available on this page. Complaints of human rights abuses can also be submitted to the non-profit Human Rights Centre Somaliland who can be contacted via email at

New Laws – Government Gazette

Any new laws can be found in the Somaliland Republic Official Gazette, which publishes new rules and regulations in Part 1, followed by new decrees and regulations in Part 2, and administrative decisions to be found in Part 3. This is published on a monthly basis, on the first Saturday of each month except the Sabbath, with additional editions and attachments able to be published at any time, though preferably on a Saturday. Part 1 shall contain any proposed constitutional amendments, copies of international treaties, laws and regulations approved by Parliament, the National Budget and any emergency orders issued by the President. Part 3 includes any decrees and orders of the President, local and regional government rules, decisions, notices, official reports of the Legislative Councils and any official government resolutions or declarations. The Official Gazette is a fantastic resource for understanding the laws of Somaliland and can be accessed online through the link provided on the Somaliland Law website.

International Obligations

Article 6 of the Somaliland National Charter 1993 states that the Republic of Somaliland must abide by the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Republic of Somaliland is also bound to promote lasting peace between the peoples and countries within the Horn of Africa according to Article 7, and is bound by the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, otherwise known as the Banjul Charter. These international treaties are applicable to Somaliland by virtue of the fact that they were ratified by Somalia and that Somaliland remains recognised as a Somalian territory to the international community. The Somaliland Constitution permits the continuation of these applicable laws and has declared that it will continue to do so for so long as they do not interfere with the values and interests of Somaliland.