Core International Crimes Committed In Las Anod By Somaliland’s Forces – Analysis
The extreme violations of international humanitarian law have become rampant, consuming a large number of innocent people. The severe confrontation and intensive internal warfare that erupted in Las Anod district (the administrative capital of the Sool region in northern Somalia) on February 6, 2023, and is still going on, having lasted for more than a month, has destabilized the region significantly since it has not yet been amicably resolved through negotiation or mediation.
In the beginning, the residents of Las Anod began a community revolt at the end of December 2022 as a result of a long series of similar assassinations of young politicians and significant community figures in the city by unidentified assailants that had not been prevented or adequately investigated. The most recent attack of these murders targeting civilians was against Abdullahi Abdi (Hadrawi), a member of the Wadani political party. In reaction, it angered the civilians, who protested against the recurring problem, and then Somaliland troops opened fire indiscriminately and started shooting at protestors in the city, which led to deaths and injuries among the residents who had come out to demonstrate against the problem. Because of this, the issue has become the focal point of the current raging and escalating violence. Furthermore, previously the Somaliland authorities in the city did not take any substantial measures necessarily required to end the notorious series of assassinations, and now the situation is likely to worsen over time.
Not only has Somaliland failed to manage the uprising of civilian protestors, but it has also increased the death toll of the people who were initially demonstrating peacefully, and then its ruthless military forces launched an artillery barrage on the city after being driven out of the city.
Glancing back to the brief history, in 2007, the breakaway region of Somaliland, which seceded from Somalia in 1991 and has yet to be recognized internationally, had been subjugating the city against the will of the local population since 2007, when it grabbed the Las Anod district from Puntland, a federal member state of Somalia.
The current upheaval in Las Anod is looming and deteriorating day after day more than any other previous civil unrest or local skirmishes that occurred in the city that was under the prolonged occupation of the self-proclaimed Somaliland government, which is clinging to a colonial legacy and thus seeking international recognition for more than thirty years that until now came to naught. It is endangering innocent civilians and attempting to violently capture and control the city, while the valiant local residents have been defending themselves and resisting Somaliland’s unprovoked attack.
At the beginning of the local community revolt, the traditional elders (Garaads) of the local community lived in the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions convened a high-standard conference and announced that they would no longer be part and parcel of the secessionist Somaliland administration and wanted to rejoin Somalia. They also issued a communiqué or statement pledging support for Somalia’s federal government as they decided the fate or destiny of their people through self-determination. In response, Somaliland has rejected the announcement of Garaads and started to strike the city to capture it at all costs.
Moreover, the issue of Las Anod became international as it was twice discussed and debated at UN and Security Council forums. Furthermore, an interagency assessment mission conducted by humanitarian partners in Puntland visited villages that are hosting internally displaced people (IDPs) in Boocame, Taleex, Buuhoodle and Xudun Districts in the Sool Region from February 11 to 13. The assessment team reported that more than 185,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Laas Caanood; an estimated 89 percent of the IDPs in the assessed areas are women and children. (Somalia, Feb 14, 2023) This article discusses the severe violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that Somaliland’s troops perpetrated in Las Anod so as to shed light on the commission of three international core crimes of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Somaliland’s Perpetration of the Core International Crimes in Las Anod
Although there is no unanimously agreed-upon precise definition or conceptual approach to international crimes among legal scholars, in general, international crimes are collectively heinous crimes and violations of international law or customary peremptory norms, which implies an extralegal character. International crimes differ from national crimes and have contextual elements with armed conflicts that national crimes rarely contain; those can be drawn from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and more multilateral treaties.
The term “international crime” is a collective term for certain extremely serious violations of international law: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, torture and enforced disappearances. Other heinous crimes like piracy and aircraft hijacking are not considered international crimes, despite them having an international component.
For the first time in the contemporary international case law, the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg defined international crime as “An international crime is such an act universally recognized as criminal, which is considered a grave matter of international concern and for some valid reason cannot be left within the exclusive jurisdiction of the State that would have control over it under ordinary circumstances.”
These crimes have been defined over time in a range of international conventions and agreements, beginning with the first Hague Conventions at the end of the 19th century, which established rules for military conduct during wartime. These agreements extended criminal responsibility not just to the direct perpetrators of a particular crime, but also to those who commanded, planned or allowed the crimes to take place. Hence International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction revolves around the commission of international crimes, i.e., war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and most recently the crime of aggression. (BRIEFING PAPER: INTERNATIONAL CRIMES, 2016)
Undoubtedly, it is apparent that the ongoing war in the Las Anod city constitutes international crimes, which, due to Somaliland’s aggressive behavior and indiscriminately huge bombardment of the city, have resulted in a so far high death toll, disruption of all basic necessities, and, most importantly, collateral damage and massive loss of civilian life.
However, an armed confrontation has erupted between Somaliland’s armed forces and the people of Las Anod in Somalia’s Sool region. It has been reported that many violations of human rights occurred during the war, including large-scale displacement, civilian killings, targeting of medical facilities, and other extensive abuses.  President of Somaliland Muse Bihi started a war marked with extreme violations of international humanitarian law, known as the laws of war. Indeed, the Somaliland militia has been committing violations of the rules of war with increasing frequency and brutality throughout the region. The indiscriminate use of force has caused excessive collateral damage and loss of civilian life. Over the past four years, Somaliland’s policy “Dhulku ma guuro ee dadka guura,” which means “the land remains, but the people move” has expelled hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and villages. A sustained campaign has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of local civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more. 
In terms of international legal status, this Las Anod conflict can be categorized as a non-international armed conflict or internal armed conflict in nature, applicable to common article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions Geneva conventions  and in Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, according to the commonly accepted definition of it within the purview of international humanitarian law.
Below are discussed the core international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) that have been committed by Somaliland forces in Las Anod and still willing to exacerbate the situation by shelling and bombarding the city with gravely violating the international humanitarian law as well as international customary humanitarian law and also international human rights bodies of law.
A) War Crimes
The president of Somaliland is a commander in chief and top military officials of Somaliland who ordered to strike the city with artillery shells, the Las Anod local clan fighters because they have rejected to endorse the secessionist agenda of Somaliland and said they still remain part and parcel of the federal government of Somalia, and that is what is behind the armed fighting between the Somaliland administration and the Lasanod community.
During the armed conflict between SCC  self-defenders and Somaliland military attackers in Las Anod, we have a large-scale commission of such crimes committed by the Somaliland government with gross violations of human rights and serious breaches of international humanitarian law that certainly could be invoked internationally as heinous crimes at international law tribunals.
In accordance with the Rome Statute war crime elements , the violations of IHL by the Somaliland government have met the following serious war crimes elements that must be discerned and considered: As manifested on the war grounds (Las Anod), the acts are regarded as grave breaches  of war crimes and other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict that Somaliland committed are as follows:
1) Willfully and indiscriminately killing innocent civilians that caused great suffering and serious atrocities resulted in large-scale casualties (deaths and massive injuries) with criminally offensive actions to bodies or health facilities.
2) Intentionally extensive destruction of property, medical hospitals, and worship places, and indiscriminate shelling or bombing of the city with massive tearing down of buildings with children, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly
3) Vast populated displacement of innocent civilians, as clearly identified in an interagency assessment mission conducted by humanitarian partners in Puntland, visited villages that are hosting internally displaced people (IDPs) in Boocame, Taleex, Buuhoodle, and Xudun Districts in the Sool Region from 11 to 13 February. The assessment team reported initially that more than 185,000 people had been displaced by the fighting in Laas Caanood; an estimated 89 percent of the IDPs in the assessed areas are women and children. 
4) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, as well as intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects that are not military objectives;
5) Intentionally directing attacks against health personnel and medical facilities that created an unconducive environment for humanitarian assistance access with a great deal of hindrance when the Somaliland government reneged on the promise of a declaration of an unconditional ceasefire.
6) Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack could cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the natural environment, which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated
7) Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings that are undefended and not military objectives
8) Employing heavy weapons, bombings, projectiles, and materials and methods of warfare that are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, or that are a violation of the international law of armed conflict.
9) Deliberately directing attacks against buildings, materials, medical units, transport, and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with international law.
B) Crimes against Humanity
Responding to this devastating crisis, on February 22, 2023, the Somali Ambassador at the United Nations, Amb. Abukar Osman Bale, gave an indictment of those behind atrocities in Las Anod by calling such acts crimes against humanity. About ten nations including the US also expressed their collective grave concerns about this war and called for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. Calling for cessation of hostilities in Las Anod is a rare opportunity that united the US and the People’s Republic of China at the Security Council. 
As manifested on the grounds of the battlefield and a substantial body of evidence, and in accordance with the Rome Statute crimes against humanity  elements, the heinous violations of IHL that the Somaliland government has not met according to the rules of war applicable in international humanitarian law and, therefore, Somaliland forces have committed crimes against humanity:
1) Widespread and systematic indiscriminate attacks or strikes that resulted in massive outrageous murders, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and also killed peaceful protestors at the beginning, such that Somaliland military commanders knowingly engaged in serious criminal acts against humanity directed against Las Anod’s innocent civilian population, including children, women, and elderly people, among others. There have been reports of Somaliland forces carrying out indiscriminate strikes. Residential homes, mosques, and other civilian facilities have been targeted. This is a severe violation of international humanitarian law. Humanitarian law prohibits any kind of indiscriminate attacks. Such attacks do not distinguish between military objectives and civilian persons or property. Such attacks are defined and prohibited in detail in Article 51 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions as well as in Rules 11, 12 and 13 of ICRC Customary IHL study. (Muse, March, 2023)
2) Destruction of civilian infrastructure and indiscriminate shelling with pivotal coordinated bombardment of Las Anod of the city with no military purpose
3) Brutally widespread persecution against local civilians on the ground based on Somali nationalism, ethnicity (tribal ancestor identity), and their political opinion based on the unionism of the Somalia republic.
4) Widespread inhumane treatments, such as intentionally shelling residential areas, the use of force, the threat of large-scale violence, and unlawful killings, including of children with a similar character causing great suffering, serious injury to the body, or damage to the mental or physical health of civilian populations.
5) Large-scale of displacement, where people have been forced to leave their homes and properties behind, which has caused great suffering, or serious injury to the body or to mental or physical health. However, internally displaced people are protected by international human rights law, domestic law, and, in situations of armed conflict, by international humanitarian law .
6) And also additional inhumane acts against prisoners of war and other similar characters, intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to the body or to mental or physical health, including several attacks on water facilities that Somaliland forces stationed at Gojacade military base have committed against the Las Anod Water Supply Company, which supplies water to Las Anod city. According to media reports, Somaliland forces destroyed parts of the company’s premises and looted some of its equipment . This is a grave breach of Article 14 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II which prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of combat .
Despite the fact that genocide has been outlawed in a number of international conventions and national laws, the Somaliland government may be persecuted for genocide crimes regarding their prevalent genocidal actions committed in Las Anod in line with Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, as we can analogically elaborate below:
1) Mass atrocities and multiple unlawful killings of innocent civilian populations targeted a specific group of people with the intent to destroy them in whole or in part or at least weaken that particular clan living in Las Anod district, who overwhelmingly hailed from the Dhulbahante clan, having also upheld Somali unionism and dissenting to permit the secessionist agenda of Somaliland, a self-proclaimed de facto state.
2) Somaliland’s widespread violence has caused pervasive serious bodily or mental harm that has been inflicted on the residents of the city in a savagely violent way. With a great deal of ill-intentions shown by the realities on the ground, Somaliland’s military forces have deliberately destroyed the city and inflicted clan conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
3) Making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack.
4) Knowingly killing innocent civilians with indiscriminate strikes or attacks on the people of the city that caused great suffering and serious atrocities resulted in a large scale of casualties (deaths and massive injuries).
5) Carried out an indiscriminate shelling attack that largely affected the civilian population and their objects.
6) Caused serious bodily or mental harm, and huge exodus of displacements exceeding 250,000 households fled from their homes.
According to convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide . and the Rome Statute of the ICC, genocide means any of the above acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
Potential Prosecution of the Incumbent Perpetrators at the International Tribunal
According to Article 5 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court), the jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.
The most serious crimes are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. There should be a well-founded ground for the possibility of instituting prosecution of international crimes that might oblige the ICC prosecutor to initiate an investigation proprio motu or upon a formal request on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with Article 15 of the present Statute, albeit it shall have the power to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of these collective international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide) so as to punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and then provide remedy and reparation to victims or their families.
There has been mounting evidence of Somaliland violating international criminal law in the conduct of war. The relentless use of explosive weapons in vast areas of the city has affected populated areas, killed, and injured scores of civilians, and devastated entire neighborhoods. Local authorities and civil society organizations have documented indiscriminate attacks using artillery, mortar, and tank shells. Muse Bihi, the President of Somaliland, and Somaliland political and military leaders must face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges for targeting civilians in Las Anod.
According to credible sources, reports of shelling in Las Anod have significantly impacted senior U.S., European Union (E.U.), and United Nations (U.N.) officials. Social media posts of the indiscriminate bombardment of Las Anod have provoked outrage and calls for the International Community to act. There is a growing concern that diplomatic and military interaction with Somaliland leaders may have emboldened secessionists. The international community partners must address war crimes, bringing President Muse Bihi and Somaliland political, military and security officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges .
Notwithstanding, since serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights have been perpetrated and also observed and gleaned sufficient evidence for the admissibility of the allegations that the core of international crimes have been committed by the Somaliland government, there shall ensue liabilities for those crimes. In accordance with the present statute, accused states or individual perpetrators should be indicted at the International Criminal Court to hold them accountable; therefore, the ICC Prosecutor is asking for the launch of international prosecution and an inquiry into the international crimes’ elements perpetrated in Las Anod.
Most importantly, although the serious violations and heinous offenses has apparently committed by Somaliland military forces fit into the parameters of the definitions of international crimes as we discussed, however the admissibility of the international prosecution of the perpetrators at ICC is largely hinges on how to prove the crucial intent of the Somaliland government and demonstrate to hold them accountable.
However, these crimes which are under the jurisdiction the International Tribunal (ICC) must be referred to the competent court for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Las Anod since the beginning of the non-international armed conflicts/internal conflicts that still going on, the international tribunal shall function in accordance with the provisions of the present Statute in order justice being served.
Unfortunately, the city of Las Anod is in ruins, and its escalating bloodshed situation is out of control with basic necessities’ disruption and humanitarian crises that have devastated the local residents of Las Anod, who, with self-determination, have been defending themselves from the Somaliland administration, which is invoking non-existent colonial borders and hijacking people’s political opinions by ignoring the realities on the ground.
The current Las Anod conflict has the international legal status of a non-international armed conflict or internal armed conflict in accordance with Article 1 of Additional Protocol II of 1977 as well as Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions, which broadly come under the purview of international humanitarian law.
As per article 5 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the jurisdiction of these most serious international crimes exclusively lays under the ICC, as the Court shall be limited to the crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. According to the statute, the court has jurisdiction over the following crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and also the crime of aggression.
Nevertheless, extreme violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated resulted in the heinous core of international crimes, the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, committed by the Somaliland government in Las Anod city.
If we have a substantial body of evidence indicating that Somaliland’s military, security, and paramilitary forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights breaches, and international customary rules of war, these violations should lead to international prosecution of the allegedly international perpetrators. There should be legal action taken to initiate international litigation at the International Criminal Court, either individually or as a Somalia state, to punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and then provide remedy and reparation to victims or their families. It is an inescapable reality that the individual responsible for these violations of Somaliland’s government will be prosecuted someday at the ICC, though those crimes shall not be subject to any statute of limitations.
The following numerous sets of useful recommendations might be needed to achieve a durable peace and a solution to the crisis in Las Anod:
1. To end the war and prevent further violence, the Somalia government and the international community, with the authority of the Security Council, should legitimately put pressure on the Somaliland administration to immediately withdraw its military forces from the Sool region, particularly the territories where the uprising clan of Dhulbahante resides permanently, in order to prevent Somaliland from using force, which is prohibited under Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, as contrary to the local community’s inherently using the right to use self-defense as per Article 51 of the same charter, to create a conducive environment for negotiation or mediation to ultimately settle the issue and promote an amicable peaceful coexistence, and to prevent potentially an inevitable civil war between two brotherly neighboring clans
2. At the time of the negotiation or good office mediation, given the declaration of the traditional elders authority (Garads) of the local community living in the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions, who said in a statement that their territories are part of Somalia, the Somalia government and international partners should respect the decision and autonomy of the people of the regions and work with their vote of confidence without imposing the secessionist political agenda of Somaliland.
3. A scrupulous and credible investigation into the violations of international crimes should be undertaken by special, impartial, UN-mandated inspectors using UN investigative mechanisms with the help of fact-finding missions on the ground.
4. Taking robust legal action: It should be inevitably established and initiate international crimes prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide perpetrated by the Somaliland forces, though these core international crimes are not statute-barred.
5. Economic or diplomatic sanctions and a halting of non-humanitarian support should be imposed on the Somaliland administration as long as it continues hijacking the opinions of the people who reject to secede from the federal republic of Somalia. Economic sanctions may include freezing the assets of Somaliland’s political and military leaders. It should also be rejected that Somaliland’s forceful political agenda, which it desires to coerce the Las Anod population to endorse and accept their ardent secessionists.
6. Lastly but not least, the Somali government and the international community should use their influence and must constantly monitor the situation in Las Anod to ensure the above required measures are implemented swiftly.
1] The Application of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law to the Current Las’anod Conflict ( East African Scholars Journal of Education, Humanities and Literature) by Zakarie Yusuf Muse—March, 2023
 Mohamed Fatah, “President Muse Bihi and Somaliland Forces Commit War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Las Anod,” WardheerNews, March 5, 2023, https://wardheernews.com/president-muse-bihi-andsomaliland-forces-commit-war-crimes-and-crimes-against-humanity-in-las-anod
 The Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949.
[4 ] The administrative seat Lasanod for the regions known as SSC, alias Sool, Sanag, and Cayn also known as Khaatumo which was established in 2009 by local councils/traditional leaders representing the regions.
 Article 8 of Rome Statute adopted by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court on 17 July 1998.
 According to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and its additional protocols, grave breaches shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
 Reliefweb, Available: https://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/somalia-flash-update-no-2-fighting-laas-caanood-sool-region-14-february-2023, (Accessed 09.03.2023)
 Faysal A. Roble, “War over the Soul of Sool’s Las Anod.” WardheerNews, February 24, 2023. Available: https://wardheernews.com/war-over-the-soul-of-sools-las-anod/.
 Article 7 of Rome Statute adopted by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court on 17 July 1998.
 Internally displaced persons and international humanitarian law, ICRC,2018, Available: https://www.icrc.org/en/document/internally-displaced-persons-and-international-humanitarian-law, (Accessed 10.03.2023)
 Farah Abdulkadir, Available at: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02WtGzdUr9os7H3VW9c2fCHVmgtmvnp3zpTbpCaJG3rHuErEaM
 The “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948, and came into force on January 12, 1951.
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2 thoughts on “Core International Crimes Committed In Las Anod By Somaliland’s Forces – Analysis”
Well-articulted and extensive study of the situation and pointed out the core international crimes regarding the IHL violations
It is a a contextualised thoughful academic article