Sunday, June 24, 2012

Somaliland justice falters on the case of Boqor Osman Buurmadow

By Bashir Goth 

Boqor Osman Aw Mahmoud, Buurmadow, is languishing in jail for the fourth month in a case that exposed the faltering and inept system of Somaliland justice.
In four months, the government prosecutor could not build a plausible case against Boqor Osman and couldn’t bring credible people other than government officials and arm-twisted reporters to take the witness stand.

In the first hearing of the case held on 24th April 2012, the court accepted the defense lawyers’ criticism of the legal conformity of the charge sheet and the judge had requested the prosecution to replace the charge sheet and submit one that is consistent with the law. 

When the prosecution failed to replace the charge sheet and submitted the same charge with government officials including the President’s spokesman as witnesses at the second hearing on 3rd May 2012, the defense lawyers requested the court to dismiss the case. However, to the surprise of the defense team and other audience, the court ordered the case to continue. It was obvious that the court was put under immense pressure to continue the case and was particularly intimidated by the presence of the Attorney General at the hearing.

Realizing that the court had succumbed to pressure, the defense lawyers decided to withdraw from the case after consulting with their client. The defense team refused to be a decoy for the incarceration of their client in a kangaroo court. They assumed that their client was already indicted outside the court when the Minister of Presidency had accused Boqor Osman of committing crimes against the state. This is a government minister publicly announcing a guilty verdict against an accused person on the national TV even before the court made any decision on the legal conformity of the case charge sheet. 

In another deliberate obstruction of justice, the Minister of Justice issued a rapidly cooked up circular to the court and Attorney General in which he declared that members of the legislative houses and other government officials were not allowed to practice law. This was an apparent measure to stop one of the leading defense team of Boqor Osman who was also a member of parliament from extending legal assistance to his client. The Minister’s circular however had forgotten to mention that the Attorney General himself was engaged in cases.

It appears now that the stage is set for the court to announce a guilty verdict against Boqor Osman for being vocal against the government, for exercising his constitutional right to express his opinion and for being the only dissident voice in a country that has become scarily bereft of any opposition.

 The case of Boqor Osman Buurmadow is one of many cases of justice gone astray in Somaliland but Buurmadow’s case stands out as it is a test for the country’s democracy and the ability of Somaliland citizens to exercise their right to free speech. 

Constitutional Democracy between Ahmed Silanyo and Jacob Zuma

It may be appropriate here to compare President Ahmed Silanyo’s high handedness and making mockery of democracy to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa who despite being the victim of a burlesque painting showing him with his genitals hanging out has pursued a legal route to get his constitutional right. Even when the painting which was displayed in a public gallery was defaced by angry individuals, the perpetrators were arrested for vandalizing the gallery and for violating the freedom of expression. Here the law protects the artistic creativity and freedom of expression instead of glorifying the president and putting him above the law.
The case ended amicably when President Jacob Zuma agreed to withdraw the legal challenge after Goodman Gallery took down the controversial portrait but only after it was sold to a German dealer and after it had been viewed and still can be by millions of people on the internet.

With a moment of reflection, one cannot but bewilder at the difference between Jacob Zuma, a man with no formal education whose world was shaped by the struggle against the inhumane apartheid system in South Africa , upholding the constitutional right of his citizens and respecting their freedom of speech even at the cost of his personal reputation, and Ahmed Silanyo who earned a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Manchester in UK, one of the greatest western democracies, trampling on his citizens rights and behaving like a tin pot dictator.