For centuries, Somalis have had a traditional legal system known as xeer (pronounced /ħeːr/) to settle disputes among themselves.
Some scholars believe the xeer system was developed as early as the 7th century and was influenced by Islam.
Before colonial occupiers imposed a formal legal system on them, xeer was applied throughout the regions Somalis lived. It, still, is today but the tradition has remained more intact in rural areas than in urban centres.
Here are 10 facts about the xeer system:
1. Somali customary law as established in xeer can also be found in other Muslim communities throughout the world.
2. Judges of xeer are chosen by the two conflicting parties from their own clan.
3. Unlike formal statutory laws, xeer does not predominantly carry out a punitive goal. It aims to compensate and reimburse the injured or victim.
4. Perpetrators of crimes against Xeer law cannot get a prison sentence, since it is the clan’s responsibility to re-educate its lawbreaking members.
5. The concept of individuality is almost unknown in Xeer, which can be very easily explained by the fact that nomadic individuals simply do not have enough individual resources to pay their obliged compensations.
6. Xeer is still passed on orally through generations, but there have been several attempts to codify or write down the Somali customary law.
7. Xeer is not a strict legal system and thus its application may vary given the parties’ political and military strength.
8. Although the application of xeer shows various regional differences, there are some fundamental, uniform principles that are incorporated in all Somali clan laws, called Xissi adkaaday
9. The Somali xeer judges do not have more power than the other clansmen, since there is no monopoly of the judiciary.
10. The informal Xeer judiciary provides a large accessibility to people living in rural areas.422 Standard procedure in Xeer dictates that conflicts should be settled on the same day the conflict has befallen or the day the perpetrator has been arrested. In practice, conflicts are generally dealt with in a few days at most.