Over the centuries, the Somalis developed a system of
handling disputes or acts of violence, including homicide, as
wrongs involving not only the parties immediately concerned but
also the clans to which they belonged. The offending party and
his group would pay diya to the injured party and his
clan. The British and Italians enforced criminal codes based on
their own judicial systems in their respective colonies, but did
not seriously disrupt the diya-paying system.
After independence the Somali government developed its own
laws and procedures, which were largely based on British and
Italian legal codes. Somali officials made no attempt to develop
a uniquely Somali criminal justice system, although diya-
paying arrangements continued.
The military junta that seized power in 1969 changed little
of the criminal justice system it inherited. However, the
government launched a campaign against diya and the
concept of collective responsibility for crimes. This concept is
the most distinctly Somali of any in the criminal justice system.
The regime instead concentrated on extending the influence of
laws introduced by the British and Italians. This increased the
government's control over an area of national life previously
regulated largely by custom.