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Somaliland Criminal Law

   Somaliland Criminal Laws

Penal Code & other Special Criminal Laws


UPDATES BELOW - September 2020


The Indian Penal Code (1860) applied in Somaliland until 1964. After the union with Somalia, the Somali Republic National Assembly passed Law No: 5 of 30 January 1962 which delegated to the Government power   to enact within six months a Penal Code, a Criminal Procedure Code, a Traffic Code and an Organisation of the Judiciary Law.  Contini (in The Somali Republic: An Experiment in Legal Integration, Frank Cass & Co, London, 1969, at

Somaliland Special Criminal Laws:

Article 13 of the Penal Code states that where an issue is governed by more than one criminal law, the special law shall, unless otherwise provided, prevail over the general law. Also to avoid gaps in the criminal law,  Article 14 of the Penal Code confirms that  the Penal Code shall still apply to matters governed by other special criminal laws, unless the special laws specifically provide otherwise. 


Juvenile Justice Law: Law No:36/2007 (in Somali)



Law on the Prevention of the Misappropriation of Public Assets & on Combatting Corruption - Law No. 38/2007 (in Somali)


Public Order Law 1963 - Law No. 21 of  26 August 1963

see also Article on this Law

This Law has now been REPEALED  by Article 47 of the new Somaliland  MAINTENANCE  OF THE PUBLIC ORDER AND SECURITY LAW - LAW NO. 51/2012 which came into force on 7 APRIL 2012


Law Prohibiting Participation in Somalian Meetings 2003  & its 2012 Amendments - Text and annotations [in Somal] and short commentary AND 2012 Amendment




page 45) remarks that to produce an integrated Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code within six months was “a Herculean endeavour”.  As it was “obviously impossible to produce ex novo two original codes within the allotted time, the first question was whether to use” the Somaliland law or the Somalia law, the deciding factor was, in end, the choice of the Somalian members “as most of the ministers and government officials were Italian trained” and so they opted for Italian Penal CodeExcept for  few changes to reflect Somali circumstances, the Code is word for word the Italian 1930 Penal Code drafted by a Special Commission presided by professor Arturo Rocco.


The Somalian Penal Code was first prepared in 1957 by the “Somalia Court of Justice”.  After the 1962 Decree Law,  a  Legal Committee presided by Renato Angeloni completed the draft, which was then sent to Somaliland for comments, and according to Contini:

    “Owing to the difficulties encountered by the Northern (Somaliland) judges and police officers in understanding many of the provisions, a working group of experts, appointed by the Minister of Justice, proposed a number of amendments for the purpose of clarifying and simplifying the text. The Special Commission, however, decided not to consider the proposed amendments and, on December 12, 1962, transmitted to the Council of Ministers the text previously approved.  The Penal Code was approved by the Council of Ministers on the following day and signed by the President of the Republic three days later.”   

The Code came into force on 2 April 1964. 


On reassertion of its independence in 1991, the Republic of Somaliland decided to continue applying the Penal Code and therefore all the references to the state and the government in the Penal Code would be those of Somaliland and not Somalia.  The Code has been in force in Somaliland since then, but, under Article 130(5) of the Constitution (and prior to that under the Somaliland National Charter), all the articles in the Code which are in conflict with Somaliland sovereignty, Islamic Sharia or the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Somaliland Constitution are null and void.  Human rights law has developed since the code (and its 1930s model) was drafted and there are a number of articles (such as those which protect public officials unduly to the detriment of the rights of citizens) that are likely to fail this test.  The remainder of the Code, which does need some updating, is proving to be useful for Somaliland, primarily because the police forces and the legal profession have been trained on it, and it is, after all, fairly comprehensive in its coverage.


The Code consists of 641 Articles, grouped in three Books (Chapters) which are headed:

    • Offences in General-  covering general principles that apply to all offences, such as the elements of an offence (actus rea and mens rea), the offenders, punishment etc
    • Crimes, i.e serious offences, such as murder, rape etc
    • Contraventions, i.e minor offences such as begging, failure to control large and dangerous animals etc

The Crimes are grouped under 13 main headings, such as crimes against:

  • the personality of the state;
  • the public administration;
  • the administration of justice;
  • religious feelings;
  • public order;
  • public safety;
  • the good faith of the public;
  • the economy;
  • the morals;
  • health;
  • family;
  • the person and
  • property.

The Contraventions are grouped under 5 main headings, such as those relating to:

  • public order;
  • public safety;
  • prevention of some offences;
  • morals and
  • public health.

The Penal Code was of course drafted in Italian.  The official report of the Legal Committee which finalised the Code  was published  (see: Angeloni R The Somali Penal Code: with comments and annotations based on preliminary studies ) . This also included a semi-official English Language translation .


For  full copy of this semi-official English Language translation of the Penal Code with a short introduction and an index of the main Parts of the Code:  PENAL CODE in English  (large pdf file 3.8mb)


(An ARABIC version of this Code is available - please contact us at: )


An English Language translation which is still available and is much more readable than the official English Language translation is:

    Ganzglass M (1971) The Penal Code of the Somali Democratic Republic, Rutgers University Press

To be updated ... 2020.


Somaliland Sexual Offences Law 2018 and Recent Proposed Changes

Recently the House of Representatives approved a new bill amending the 2018 SO Law, titled. in Somali, Xeerka Kufsiga, Sinada iyo Xadgudubyada la Xidhiidha, Lr. 78/2020, which in English translates as Rape, Fornication and other Related Offences Law No. 78/2020 that is meant to replace the 2018 Sexual Offences Law. There has already been strong expressions of disagreement with many of the provisions of this new bill, two examples of which are:


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