Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Al-Shabaab fears Somalia’s military court, judge says

Al-Shabaab militants carry out frequent attacks in Somalia, such as the suicide car bombing in Mogadishu on Wednesday that killed at least 10 people. The group has claimed responsibility for the attack on a security caravan.

When the group is not staging direct attacks, it uses intimidation to collect “zakat,” or taxes, and fees from Somali businesses to finance its operations.

The violent group that has been trying to impose an extreme version of Islam in Somalia since 2007 inspires terror. But Somalia’s military courts fear its own members, says a Somali military judge who has tried hundreds of such cases.

The president of the Somali National Armed Forces Military Court, Hassan Ali Noor Shute, told VOA Somali that he interviewed an al-Shabaab suspect, who said that “members are told to take their own lives when carrying out attacks” in a military court. Instead of prosecuting in .

“They know about the court,” Shut said of the al-Shabaab terrorists. “They tell each other that they will face justice.”

As chairman, Schutt oversees 11 other military judges. Since 2017, they have tried 659 alleged terrorists on charges of mass murder, terrorism or both, Schutt said. Of them, 455 – mostly al-Shabaab terrorists, and some linked to the Islamic State group – have been convicted.

Seventeen have been killed, including Hassan Aden Isaac, who coordinated a double truck bombing in Mogadishu on October 14, 2017, which killed 587 people. Exactly a year later, Isaac was executed.

FILE – Somalians gather from buildings destroyed at the site of an explosion in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017 and search for survivors.

Ten other al-Shabaab fighters are on death row.

Somalia’s military justice system requires a three-judge panel for any trial, whether for alleged militants or defendants from the armed forces. Most cases are heard in Mogadishu, but military judges also travel to various Somali regions and towns. Hearings are public – sometimes even on television – with prosecutors and defense lawyers. Decisions regarding the death penalty must be unanimous, and Schutt must approve each.

rights concerns

But the system faces opposition, primarily from rights organizations and others that oppose cases involving defendants with suspected terrorist ties should be transferred to civilian courts.

“The military court does not have legal jurisdiction over matters relating to al-Shabaab,” said Letitia Badr, Horn of Africa director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

He said the system works under an earlier presidential decree of 2011, which declared a state of emergency in parts of Mogadishu vacated by al-Shabaab.

HRW challenged the court’s “absolute power” in a 2014 report, writing, “Although the state of emergency expired after three months, the military court continues to try multiple defendants beyond those envisaged under the Code of Criminal Procedure.” kept.” ,

Ali Halane, a Somali defense lawyer based in Mogadishu, also argues that military courts should not try defendants with alleged links to al-Shabaab or any other terrorist organization. He said the military justice system, established in 1964, limits the jurisdiction of the court to defendants who are members of the armed forces.

“These are civilians, civilians,” Halane said of the alleged al-Shabaab defendants. “They have the right to prosecute civilians by courts that prosecute them. And if they are fighting against the military, they should have a fair trial. They should find a neutral body.”

Bader also worries that military courts do not respect due process, one of the issues HRW raised in its 2014 report. He questioned the credibility of the interrogation while one suspect is in the custody of the intelligence services. He fears that detainees have limited access to legal counsel, noting that from 2011 to 2014 the court relied entirely on confessions.

“While they were held in a detention facility” or “without access to legal counsel, their relatives are particularly concerned,” said Bader, who also spoke about the pace of the trials. expressed concern.

FILE - Al-Shabaab fighters sit on a truck as they patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct.  30, 2009.

FILE – Al-Shabaab fighters sit on a truck as they patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 30, 2009.

Shet defended the practices of the military court system, saying that al-Shabaab is considered military because it is an armed organization engaged in a deadly war aimed at toppling Somalia’s government. He said the reason for setting up the court was to deliver “quick justice”.

Brigadier General Abdi Hassan Hussein, a former intelligence officer and former police commander for the Puntland region, also supports the attempts of suspected al-Shabaab defendants in the military court system. The officer, also known as Abdi Yare, said some al-Shabaab units are trained, organized, armed and uniformed like the military. They sometimes disguise themselves in army or police uniform to carry out attacks.

Hussein said Somalia’s parliament should pass an anti-terrorism law to empower the military court.

dangerous profession

Schutt, now 35, has a master’s degree in law. He joined the military court system in 2011 and was appointed to the bench the following year.

Trying terrorism cases has inevitably exposed him to personal dangers and harm.

On January 2, 2018, his father Noor Shute visited the judge’s office, advising him to quit government service and study abroad. An hour after his father left, Schutt received a call that his father had been murdered. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the murder.

Shute has also lost accomplices to the al-Shabaab killings: deputy attorney general Mohamed Abdirahman Mursal in March 2019, criminal investigator Hassan Dere in April 2018, and military court prosecutor Abdullahi Hussein Mohamed in October 2016. On the day of Mohamed’s death, an al-Shabaab spokesman had threatened to avenge the death sentence by order of the court.

Therefore, Shute considers himself a marked person. Always under protection, he travels in bullet-proof vehicles – which helped him survive a roadside explosion on September 25, 2019, while returning from a military base in Lower Shabele. He lives away from his family, fearing that they might be unsafe. Shabab came knocking on the door. He said that even his relatives and friends avoid his company, worried they might be affected.

But the Speaker said that he was committed to his work after being impressed by the public’s response. And the court’s Facebook page shows considerable public support for the effort by al-Shabaab members.

He said the efforts of the military courts made Somalians feel more secure.

“Ordinary people … have seen that al-Shabaab can be prosecuted,” Shut said. “They weren’t even mentioning Al-Shabaab’s name out loud earlier. They used code words like ‘Arsenal is playing today’.”

This report was developed from the “Investigative Dossier” program of the VOA Somali Service.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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